Opposition can come from the unlikeliest of places, as I discovered online rather recently. Seemingly out of nowhere someone was telling me at length about how medical research is ableist. They weren’t referring to the general ableism experienced in every industry, but genuinely believed that medical researchers were striving to eradicate disability completely within the next few years. Given that my studies directly related to medical research, & that, well…I work in medical research, this was news to me. However, despite their mostly irrelevant if impressive education & career, they persisted in explaining to me why I, a disability activist, was contributing to ableism.
Needless to say, I was a tad miffed (read: bloody furious).
There were also several fundamental flaws in their argument, & if being married to a philosophy graduate has taught me anything, it’s how to pick apart someone’s argument & use it against them (domestic disputes in our house are fun).
First & foremost, the depiction of medical research on the television makes it seem like cracking the human genome is the key to all medical matters, & therefore once we crack that code, we can click our fingers & snap everyone back into good health. That theory was put to bed over a decade ago, when the infamous human genome project came to a close, & a new field of study opened up; epigenetics.
If your school biology classes were anything like mine, & you were actually paying attention, you were probably taught that there were two categories of things that could influence your biology. These were genetics, & environmental factors.
What if I told you that there is a third influence, which arises when genetics & the environment collide (sometimes quite literally)? Molecules that enter our bodies interact with genes, making them more or less pronounced, activating & deactivating them, & sometimes resulting in a mutation. Suddenly that little dietary balance diagram doesn’t seem so hard.
The truth is, even if medical research could decode the human genome in it’s entirety, it wouldn’t actually solve much. It’s simply not within our grasp, now or any time soon, to eradicate disability. Therefore, this notion that medical research could wipe out an entire demographic is purely fictitious.
But, is medical research trying to do that anyway?
In short, no. We’re too busy dicking around in the office for that.
There is also a troubling implication of the theory that medical research aims to get rid of disability; what about disabled people who want things to improve? Is it ableist of me to not want to be in constant pain? To want to have literally one organ system in my entire body that does its job without periodically trying to kill me? It’s very easy to say that we don’t need to find a cure for disability when the condition you have doesn’t leave you feeling constantly unwell, or at an unsurpassable disadvantage. It’s entirely a different matter when people are living & dying in misery because of it.
Finally, when all is said & done, there is one thing that remains to be said.
In order to find a cure, a disability must first exist. Therefore, medical research is dependent on the existence of illness & disability to stay in business in the first place, you illogical buffoons.