Adherents to the “quality of life ethic” and those of a utilitarian mindset would have been quite content to see the little girl who is the subject of this story die, rather than live with the cognitive and developmental impairments caused by having half her brain surgically removed. Thankfully, her parents didn’t see Keeley as being any less worthy of life because she would have profound cognitive and developmental impairments. From the story:
Just like lots of children her age, little Keeley Green is a bright and mischievous, loves music and playing tricks but she is not like other kids. She has only half a brain.
Keeley, 5, was forced to have surgery to remove the left side of her brain when she was only 16 months old, the victim of a rare neurological condition that was causing uncontrollable seizures. But her parents, Amanda and Daniel Green, of Bundaberg, have seen their baby emerge from those dark days when her life hung in the balance to become a little girl who is winning small battles in her quest for a normal life…
While the operation also took away much of her motor and speech skills as well as the vision in her right eye and ability to eat normally, Keeley has amazed doctors and her parents by learning to communicate with her own version of sign language, saying some small words and moving laminated letters and pictures.
“She understands everything that is said to her and loves to play tricks on people,” Mrs Green said. Amazingly, Keeley has even gained enough muscle strength to stand with a walker and attends school for two hours a day, two days a week in Bundaberg where she has a network of little friends. “She’s a bright little girl trapped in a body which just doesn’t work very well,” Mrs Green said. “She might only have half a brain but she’s still got a beautiful mind.”
We are all so happy for Keeley’s achievements. But I am sure her parents would agree that her life was precious even if she had fewer capacities. You see, little Keeley matters fully and equally simply and merely because she is human. When we accept that premise, there is no such thing as them and us at the most profound level of humanity. There is only us.