Translate The Content in Your Local Language

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Give the disabled a fair chance

Janice McGraneis a sister of St. Joseph (SSJ), a spiritual writer, and former board chair for Liberty Resources, Philadelphia's independent living center.

In ancient Greece, any baby born with an indication of a disability was tossed from the cliffs into the sea. While this strikes us today as horrifyingly barbaric, there are those in our society who strongly advocate a similar, although presumably more humane, fate for newly born disabled infants.

Pope Francis blessing Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, at the Philadelphia airport last month.
            Pope Francis blessing Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, at the Philadelphia airport last month

One of these advocates is Professor Peter Singer, of Princeton University. In a recent radio interview broadcast in Philadelphia and New York, Singer shockingly advocated that we should acknowledge the necessity of "intentionally ending the lives of severely disabled infants." His argument is that disabled infants will have no quality of life and will supposedly diminish the happiness of others in the family. And, of course, keeping disabled children alive is too costly for our society.

On the other hand, Singer believes strongly in animal rights. After being asked if he would save 200 pigs or one child from a burning fire, the professor responded: "Suffering of animals at some point is so great that you should decide to free the animals and not the child. One must not burn countless animals in order to save a child's life."

I am a Catholic nun, a sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia. I firmly believe in the church's ethic of life: All human life, no matter the condition, is sacred.

I am also a woman with a rather significant level of disability from years of living with rheumatoid arthritis. Both as a Catholic and a disabled woman, I find Singer's philosophy quite frightening. What is even more frightening is that this utilitarian view - you are what you do - is becoming more widespread in our country.

A primary concern about Singer's view regarding the killing of disabled infants is how highly subjective it is. Seen from a stance of morality, this is plain and simple murder. And it raises myriad questions:

How disabled does the infant have to be to warrant death?

Exactly who makes this horrendous decision to kill the disabled child? The doctors? The family?

How will the child be killed?

Will hospitals have to put policies into place for killing disabled children deemed too "severe"?

Then there's the highly subjective term severe. Myriad people with supposed "severe" disabilities live happy, productive lives and contribute to society. I am only one of thousands of people who do so. Would we have been deprived of Helen Keller's wisdom and insight because her deafness and blindness would have been considered too "severe" to allow her to live in the utilitarian philosophy of Singer?

It is clear that we are working from two completely different moral frameworks here. One views human life, including imperfect human life, as sacred; the other framework decidedly does not.

It is not difficult to see how this purely utilitarian approach can start spreading up the ladder to all disabled individuals. In our throwaway society, it is all too easy to dispose of anything that does not work, that is not whole and perfect. Are we now to consider people the same way?

John Hockenberry's book Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence recounts how he became a paraplegic from a car accident while in college. A neighbor asked his mother, "Is John going to kill himself because he can't walk?"

Far from committing suicide, Hockenberry went on to become a reporter for National Public Radio. From his wheelchair, he has covered volcanic explosions, wars in the Middle East, and currently hosts a news show, The Takeaway. Hockenberry's life shows not only what is possible even with a significant disability but also the resiliency of human nature.

Philadelphia has just experienced the inspiring visit of Pope Francis, who went out of his way to embrace disabled people, including the severely disabled. His message of inclusion embraces all, even those, especially those, who are the most vulnerable and marginalized.

I have learned a great deal from living with the ups and downs of my chronic condition. One thing is that the best judge of a life is the person who lives it. But the most important lesson is that, when a person is given the chance to live, a serious disability does not keep one from living a meaningful life and contributing to society.

Source : Philly , 25th Oct 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment