Wednesday, March 19, 2008

David Cameron wants to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, so it’s tricky to judge whether his latest pronouncement Monday in London’s Daily Mail about people with disabilities is a political move or whether he really believes that people with disabilities, in his words, are defective.

Here’s what he said: Generally my approach is I want to improve the process of dealing with the genetic defects and diseases that cause so much suffering…When you have been for genetic counselling and had the answer it could be this or that it could be that, the idea of medical science advancing is not without its attractions.

At last, a new euphemism for getting rid of so-called imperfect people: improving the process of dealing with genetic defects, something which Cameron sees as an advance of medical science.

Two questions seem relevant to me.

First, why would Cameron go the defective route when his son, Ivan, has severe cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures? Ivan’s CP isn’t genetic, and was probably caused by any number of factors before or during birth. So, is Cameron making a distinction between genetic defects, which he thinks need to be “improved,” via attractive medical science advancement, and Ivan’s condition, which is not? Or, even worse, is Cameron implying that Ivan shouldn’t have been born?

Second, I think Cameron is throwing around the word defective too easily. Defective to whom? Many people Cameron would consider defective are, in other cultures, considered precious. Who decides the norms of defectiveness? Trying to reach a consensus on what is and is not a defect holds the potential for making distinctions I’d rather not consider. What other forms of defect might we invent to go along with people with disabilities? The Nazis considered Jews defective, as they did people with disabilities, including those, like Ivan, with CP and seizures. Might we, sometime in the future, consider brown eyes defective? Blond hair? Females?

Of course, we are far down the road of eliminating people with disabilities. We seem to have learned very little from the past.

Eugenics is alive and well in a country that not too many decades ago helped end the same idea and subsequent genocidal behavior that the loyal leader of the opposition now seems to support.

7 comments:

Barb said...

Great first blog!

For some reason people think it is acceptable to target the unborn and it will not affect the way we view those with disabilities who are already born.

I wonder how Cameron feels about the paper that was put out by the British Oby/gyn last year that said it is ok to kill newborns with certain defects (possibly like his son) because what is the difference other than a trip down the birth canal?

SusanD said...

I think we need to be very careful who and how we put labels on one another. Who's defective? Addicts? People who are overweight? Blacks? Whites? Jews? Hmmmm, seems like I've heard this before!

Mr.Cameron needs to explain what he means by "improve the process..." Seems like I've heard that one before too!

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Thanks, Barb and Susan, for stopping by.

Yes, the hairsplitting to justify some very old and dangerous ideas is quite something. The whole issue of difference as defect can, and I think, will prove to be highly problematic.

One aspect is especially of concern to me: Once you define someone as defective, the implication is that they are in need of repair or need to be discarded. Of course, many people with disabilities have levels of severity that might be helped or accommodated, but are not “fixable.”

Well, in the current culture of death, the economic/utilitarian argument looms large. That is, if we can’t fix someone because they are highly defective, we have two choices: Spend a considerable amount of energy money maintaining them in their highly defective state, or deciding that this money could be better spent fixing less defective people.

Can we say futile care??

cher said...

HELLO MARK, I AM THE PARENT OF A 39 YEAR OLD DISABLED PERSON. WHEN THIS BABY WAS BORN, I WAS ADVISED TO INSTITUTIONALIZE HER, AS SHE WOULD NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING, AND WOULD "PROBABLY BE A VEGETABLE." I COULD NOT DO THAT TO MY CHILD. MY DAUGHTER IS NOW A LOVING MOTHER OF FOUR BRIGHT CHILDREN, AND ALTHOUGH SHE HAS HAD DIFFICULTIES, SHE IS FAR FROM A VEGETABLE. DURING MY PREGNANCY, I WAS GIVEN THE MEDICAL OPTION OF TERMINATING, WHICH WAS NOT LEGAL IN THIS COUNTRY AT THE TIME. I REFUSED TO TERMINATE THAT WHICH GOD HAD GIVEN ME. I CAN'T EVEN IMAGINE WHAT THIS WORLD WOULD BE LIKE IF WE STARTED CULLING OUR UNBORN BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF A DEFECT. WHERE WOULD IT END?

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Thanks for the post, Cher.

We're already down the path to culling persons some think are defective. As the number and accuracy of in-utero genetics tests increase, so we will see fewer and fewer people with all kinds of disabilities be born. that's what I think is behind the recent ACOG recommendation that all, yes all, pregnant women be screened for Down Syndrome.

I wrote about it here:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=54374

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Mark:

You are absolutely right in what you are trying to do.

We will never have true equality and respect for the individual until we treat all human beings as persons with dignity, just because they are human.

My greatest concern is that so many people are buying into the Peter Singer ideology that places value on a human being based on their abilities or characteristics. Singer would simply say that certain human beings are not persons, therefore we can do what we want with them.

The real question is then who decides who are non-persons (or persons)?

The end game is the elimination or "therapeutic use" of the non-person.

Sounds like Hitler lost the war but is now winning the hearts of the world

Alex

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Alex, thanks. You’re right on all counts here.

For readers who might not know who Peter Singer is, he’s a philosopher/bioethicist at Princeton who argues for dehumanization of people by claiming that humans aren’t unique, and that we humans should be considered on the same plane as animals (I’m simplifying, but I think my take on Singer is accurate). Small wonder he is considered father of the animal rights movement.

One way of interpreting Singer’s philosophy is that once animals/humans are seen as equal, we can treat everybody the same – animals more like humans (there are several places in the world where people are arguing for “human rights” for animals - stay with me here!!) and humans more like animals.

I would argue that the assisted suicide and euthanasia movements are ahead of Singer – they already treat people, especially these with severe disabilities, like animals. Even the eutanasiasts would agree that what they do is put people out of their misery – just like we have always done with animals.

Oh, by the way, Singer is so far off the utilitarian cliff that he thinks it’s probably OK to euthanize children with disabilities up to about a year after they are born if the community decides that these children have no future.

He doesn’t practice what he reaches, however. His elderly mother’s advanced Alzheimer’s disease made her the perfect candidate, under his arguments, for euthanasia. As far as I know, he didn’t do it.

Draw your own conclusions.