The Value of a Life.

An elderly patient being pushed in a wheelchair by a carer. Taken from behind.

Trigger Warning: suicide, death, Do Not Resuscitate.

Audio:

If I were you, I’d kill myself.

You’re better off dead.

Your mother should have aborted you.

It’s just natural selection.

I cannot think of a single disabled person who has not had some iteration of these comments thrown at them, myself included. Nor is this infrequent, but actually quite common, in particular online. Of course, trying to argue about the details of evolution with someone heavily involved in medicine is a sure-fire way to see yourself embarrassed in public, but that doesn’t seem to put people off. Nor does it educate them when they are reminded that not all disabilities are present at birth, so abortion wouldn’t be very helpful for eradicating us either. It seems that, despite our best efforts, our lives simply do not carry the same value as our able-bodied counterparts.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of the pandemic, a GP’s surgery in Wales sent out a letter to all their terminally ill or vulnerable patients. This letter requested that Do Not Resuscitate forms should be signed upon admission to hospital, and that they would not be offered ventilators as they were likely to die anyway, so why waste the resources. If it wasn’t for the backlash which was significantly suppressed by the media, many other GP surgeries would likely have followed suit.

Surely, though, these were just empty threats meant to panic people into being extra careful to halt the spread of the disease? Unfortunately, disabled people have actually been left to die as treatment was prioritised to their healthy counterparts, so as not to waste resources on lives deemed to be worth so little.

Tweet

In fact, several instances of elderly citizens voluntarily giving up ventilators so that younger victims could survive, sealing their fates in the process, have been deemed worthy of celebration.  Their heroism most certainly is admirable, but the trolley problems from the philosophy of ethics were meant to be thought experiments only; no one should have to make that choice in a civilised, modern society.

What this all goes to prove is that disabled lives are not deemed to be equal in value to those of the able-bodied. We can have families, friends, an education, careers, and make contributions to society just like anyone else, but we’re still deemed to be worth less. Our existence is presumed to be so miserable that we must be begging for death. The truth of the matter is that the hardest part of being disabled is not the disability or illness itself, but the stigma and assumptions that come with it.

I thought that disabled people being denied accommodations for being too much of a logistical challenge, only to see those same systems brought into use at the drop of a hat when coronavirus appeared, was the most ableist thing I would see in this plague. I also thought that the worst thing disabled people could face right now was the coronavirus itself. I was wrong.

Because, in comparison to the barbarians who think they have the right to judge the value of a life beside their own, this virus is a better organism.

We Want to Live in bold white text on a red heart, over a black-and-white hospital background.

3 thoughts on “The Value of a Life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s