If we accept that all human life has value, it follows that we should strive to make each life valued. Sadly, in current society, some lives are deemed more valuable than others.
It is a sad fact that the majority of the public, think disabled lives are flawed or simply not worth living. In a recent UK newspaper poll 32% said they would want to abort if they found they were carrying a disabled child.
I was a few days old when the seriousness of my disability was discovered. Strange as it may seem I can remember the change in the attitude of the people around me, from calm and loving to panicky and hostile. A message clearly and firmly slipped into my unconscious saying that people would prefer it if I died. It seems that since then I have spent nearly all my life desperately trying to prove that I should be alive, that I was not suffering (even when I was) that I was not worthless, but indeed exceptionally worthwhile.
“I became quadriplegic following a sporting accident 17 years ago. I was ventilator dependent for a while and at times said to people, “I wish I was dead!” I am now extraordinarily glad no one acted on that and assisted suicide was not legal. I think the first difficulty I faced was the fact that, like many people, I had a terribly negative image of disability. When you suddenly become severely disabled you still have that viewpoint. Before I was disabled, I was working as a junior doctor. That brought me into contact with disabled people and I remember clerking in a man with quadriplegia. My reaction was, how could anyone live like that? I said to my then girlfriend, “I’d rather be dead, if I couldn’t play sport”.
The danger is the assumption that disability, in this case the physical condition brought about by Multiple Sclerosis, is sufficient to explain the intolerable nature of life.
Society seems content to consign Mrs Pretty to the graveyard, yet no one would dare think the same of Stephen Hawking! If the Mrs Prettys of this world are so different that they would be better off dead then the same should be said of Stephen Hawking. Or do we want Hawking to live because of his intelligence? Where do we draw the line?
THE VALUE OF LIFE WITH A DISABILITY
Most of society sees people with disabilities as persons who are flawed, pitiful and without dignity. But we see ourselves as a vital and proud community, with values of our own that enhance our quality of life, values that could enhance life for all:
Click on the link above to see the list.