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Shoukld disabled people be euthanased?

Disabled children should be euthanased, according to Cllr Colin Brewer. According to Baroness Warnock, disabled adults should be euthanased.

In both cases this is based on the cost to society.

Cllr Brewer suggested in an interview with the Disabled News Service that some disabled babies should be euthanased to save the costs of their high support needs.[1] Disabled babies were compared by Cllr Brewer to misshapen lambs. According to the DNS, Cllr Brewer said, ‘“If they have a misshapen lamb, they get rid of it. They get rid of it. Bang!” He added: “He’s certainly got a point. We are just animals. He’s obviously got a point… You can’t have lambs running around with five legs and two heads.”’

Cllr Brewer also spoke about the costs and the burden of disabled people. “When you are talking about having to close toilets, facilities for everyone, and perhaps the coastal footpath for everyone, then I have got to question individual budgets to individual people… If you are talking about giving services to the community or services to the individual, the balance has got to be struck. ” He voiced concerns about what happends to disabled people when their parents die, saying “Who shoulders the burden after they [the parents] have looked after them for so many ears?”

Asked repeatedly about whether there “might be a good argument for killing a disabled child with high support needs, because it would free up more resources for the wider community,” Cllr Brewer said he would not make that judgement, but that there may be a case as “it is a dilemma and it is going to get increasingly a problem with budget cuts.” He then said agreed that there might be a good argument, saying, ““Yes. That is why I keep as far away from health in the council as I can.”

According to the Telegraph, back in 2008, Baroness Warnock said in an interview with Life and Work, “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service. … I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.”[2]

Both Baroness Warnock and Cllr Brewer suggest that disabled people or their parents should consider euthanasia to relieve the cost and burden on families and on the state. Both situations would create pressure on individuals. Both suggest that it is sensible to consider a person’s life almost solely in terms of the financial contribution they make.

Both are symptomatic of a wider view in society: that a person is valued by what they contribute economically. We’re valued not because of who we are but because of what we can produce. We’re valued only as long as we can produce; as soon as that ability is gone, we’re worthless. We’re not names or people, we’re numbers, and those numbers are what we cost or contribute – financially – to society.

This view is seen in other areas. The drive to get the sick and disabled off benefits and into work suggests the only contribution we can make is through work. Encouraging both parents, or lone parents, to work suggests that bringing up children is not a worthy contribution. Talking about workers versus shirkers implies anyone not in work is a shirker.

It means the concern is not just that there are advocates for euthanasia of the disabled. The concern is that we live in a society where only financial contributions are valued. In this society it becomes possible to label people as worthy or worthless; strivers or scroungers; to be supported or to be euthanised.

This is not a society I want to live in. I want to be a person, not a number.

If we lived in a society where people were valued simply because they’re people, and where contribution is not measured in pounds, then this sort of view wouldn’t be tolerated. There would be no question of terminating a life simply because a person is disabled. There would be no suggestion that individuals should terminate their own lives. There would be no suggestion that I and my grandparents and people like us should think of ourselves burdens, drains on our family and society, a negative value.

The thing is, I know I’m a drain on my parents. I know I am a financial cost and an emotional cost and a time cost and an energy cost. I know that my grandparents bring the same costs, and whereas I make a possible if non-financial contribution through my work on social policy, my grandparents do not. But, fundamentally, we are all people. That brings rights and value, just because we’re people. We have a right to live, and we have a value, and our value will always be greater than any cost we are deemed to bring.

[1] All quotes relating to the interview and Cllr Brewer’s position are from the Disability News Service

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