Human Exceptionalism

Man with Disabilities “Not Worth Saving”

The next time you are tempted to scoff at folk with disabilities who worry that they many people think their lives are not worth living, remember this story. Two medical technicians from the UK have been arrested for allegedly deciding that the life of a man with disabilities wasn’t “worth saving” from a heart attack. From the story:

It is alleged that staff in the control centre heard the two medics making disparaging comments about the state of the house.

A police source, who asked not to be named, said that the ambulancemen were then heard discussing Mr Baker and saying “words to the effect that he was not worth saving”. The source said that the two men were allegedly first heard commenting on the untidy state of the house and then saying that it was not worth bothering to resuscitate Mr Baker. They are said to have discussed what to tell ambulance control and decided to say that Mr Baker was already dead when they got there.

Friends and colleagues who have disabilities report similar stories of disdain occurring here when seeking medical care, for example, of people on ventilators being pressured to sign DNRs by hospital personnel even though they were not undergoing usually life-threatening procedures. A friend who is legally blind had her white cane thrown down a METRO escalator in Washington D.C., as her assailant told her she belonged in a concentration camp. She also reports not being picked up by cabs. Then there is the general public applause for Jack Kevorkian and suicide tour guides for helping people with disabilities kill themselves.

Human exceptionalism demands that each of us be deemed to be of equal objective moral worth. It is an ideal we have never achieved, admittedly. But unless bigotry against people with disabilities is especially shocking when it impacts care in the medical context.

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