Monday, April 04, 2005

Cathy Young on Disability Rights Activism and the Schiavo Case

See this column from today. A taste:

It is also worth noting that some disability rights advocates have their
own brand of extremism: They don't simply seek dignity and access but define themselves as an oppressed minority, turning disability into a cultural and political identity. Such radicals blasted the late Christopher Reeve because, after the accident that left him paralyzed, he focused on promoting the search for a cure for spinal cord injuries. Some in the disabled community berated the actor for being unable to ''accept disability" and sending a ''disability is bad" message.

The disability rights activists are particularly incensed by the notion
that life with severe disabilities can sometimes be a fate worse than death: To them, it's a way of saying that their lives are not worth living. Their anger is understandable, though it can also be harshly judgmental toward those who do prefer death to prolonged incapacitation and suffering. But in championing Schiavo's survival, the activists have taken the extra step of radically expanding the definition of disability to include a permanent vegetative state. Schiavo had no consciousness; she was not a woman with ''cognitive disabilities," as some asserted, not a patient in need of therapy and rehabilitation (therapy had been aggressively pursued, and eventually abandoned as clearly futile). Her life was not ''unworthy"; it simply wasn't, in any meaningful sense, a life.


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