The 1/2 Compromise and Health Care (Updated)

July 17, 2009 at 11:05 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I hope you all will pardon me for the tone and lack of proofing in this diary.

Somebody at the NYT let this man write. That’s on their heads. But when Peter Singer starts babbling about the value of the lives of persons with disabilities, as it pertains to the health care debate…I have to speak. I am compelled to speak. Because this Princeton chair is, to put it mildly, full of  crap

I’ll preface this by two things. He is an advocate of rationing care, and that particular piece of it I’m not disputing. I also know that if care is cost/benefit rationed there are unfortunate formulae that must be used. Life insurers and attorneys do it all the time. It is the insidious nature of the examples he’s using — but as many in the disability community already know, this is the guy that opined that killing severely disabled infants after birth might be something society should look into, to save itself the burden.

I’m at the computer. I’m shaking with rage and it has to come out. Don’t bring us the formulae of economists and sociologists Mr. Singer, in the guise of stating in a mainstream newspaper that we should accept the idea that a person with a disability’s life is worth less than the famous 3/5ths compromise of the 18th century.

One common method is to describe medical conditions to people — let’s say being a quadriplegic — and tell them that they can choose between 10 years in that condition or some smaller number of years without it. If most would prefer, say, 10 years as a quadriplegic to 4 years of nondisabled life, but would choose 6 years of nondisabled life over 10 with quadriplegia, but have difficulty deciding between 5 years of nondisabled life or 10 years with quadriplegia, then they are, in effect, assessing life with quadriplegia as half as good as nondisabled life. (These are hypothetical figures, chosen to keep the math simple, and not based on any actual surveys.)

Put this in the New York Times? Get the idea out there that we’re worth less? My problem with this is that the idea is now out there. Pandora’s box has come open, and some able now get to nod in agreement over their orange juice.

But the few, the invisible, the ones with (gasp!) quality of life, understandably hold a different view.

Disability advocates might argue that such judgments, made by people without disabilities, merely reflect the ignorance and prejudice of people without disabilities when they think about people with disabilities. We should, they will very reasonably say, ask quadriplegics themselves to evaluate life with quadriplegia. If we do that, and we find that quadriplegics would not give up even one year of life as a quadriplegic in order to have their disability cured, then the QALY method does not justify giving preference to procedures that extend the lives of people without disabilities over procedures that extend the lives of people with disabilities.

Yes, we might. We just might.

This method of preserving our belief that everyone has an equal right to life is, however, a double-edged sword. If life with quadriplegia is as good as life without it, there is no health benefit to be gained by curing it.

He’s not talking about the Pro-lifers…it’s a different sort of right.

But, Mr. Singer (she said as the student at the feet of the Idiot Who Poses as a Wise Academic)

Have you, in your well known, vaunted, academic career ever come across such a thing as nuance?

Here, Let me demonstrate.

The disability community does not sit around and wait for cures in our day to day living because there is life to be lived, words to be said things to get done. We are not the perpetually abandoned prom date. We don’t need a cure to be valuable human beings. However if we and our allies choose to be a part of some of the many advocacy organizations and docs and scientists out there come up with a treatment or cure that would ameliorate some or all of the impairment…some of us may try it and benefit from it, and that is a good as well. We live lives as paras, quads, other kinds of gimps, etc, live life as it is given to us, and by that, demonstrate its value. And, I despise Mr. Singer, your particular brand of free speech, to even begin to let seep into the watertable of our minds that my life is only worth half of yours. The healthcare debate is one we have to have. But not in this sick little corner. Not with this man. Not me. I know my value, and you haven’t got a ****ing clue what it is Mr. Singer.

Update: Now, this would actually be fascinating if his philosophy didn’t remain so repugnant.


  1. hymes said,

    I don’t think you are over the top. I want the man deported for inciting hate crimes–just my hypothesis but that’s all one needs apparently, a hypothesis…….

  2. bridgett said,

    Philosophers don’t need empirical evidence — they have their prejudices posing as “thought experiments” and “think pieces.”

    What I think is the guy is a bigot and taps into something cold, slimy, and eugenical in the American conciousness. But I don’t get an Op-Ed slot in the NY Times.

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