Note: Throughout this post, including the title, I use the word “retarded” with the goal of showing the harsh reality of how our culture treats individuals who are wrongly viewed as somehow less valuable to society. It is in no way my intention to promote the term, which is used as a derogatory label. For more info, please visit this site to learn more about People First Language.
Do retarded children deserve to live?
Does that question bother you? Does it make you mad? It should. But tragically, that question reflects the reality in our society. Our country is waging war against the “unwanteds” of society. We use the term quality of life to set artificial boundaries around when someone deserves to live. It’s ironic that the quality of life argument is almost always used when one person (or entity) is deciding for another person (or group) if they may live or die. We claim we’re worried about whether the person in question can lead a happy, fulfilling life. We presume we’re being compassionate by deciding for them that their life won’t be good enough and sentencing them to death as a preferable alternative.
This website describes the true story of a three-year-old girl named Amelia. She has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, meaning she has been labeled mentally retarded and brain damaged. A hospital in Philadelphia decided she didn’t qualify for a kidney transplant “because of her quality of life; because of her mental delays,” according to the doctor. Not only was she ineligible for the waiting list for a random donor, the hospital would not perform the transplant even if her family provided its own donor.
The hospital has decided for Amelia and her family that her “quality of life” is no good. So bad, in fact, that she deserves to die.
This is Amelia. She looks like a happy little girl to me. And her story is not unique.
Statistics show that 90% of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort. Is that not astonishing? Many think it would be wonderful to create a world in which no children are retarded or disabled. But instead of (or in addition to) efforts to prevent retardation, we seek to exterminate anyone who falls short of our standards. For children like Amelia who aren’t aborted, there is a movement in the medical community to simply “let” them die. We will find ways to get rid of our “unwanteds,” if not before birth, then after.
Our demand for perfection drives us to constantly expand our definition of those who we say have an unacceptable quality of life. Go back to my initial question. It is asked of so many in our society.
- Do retarded children deserve to live?
- Do physically handicapped children deserve to live?
- Do unplanned preborn children deserve to live?
- Do feeble elderly people deserve to live?
- Do poor people deserve to live?
- Do minority people deserve to live?
Wait, you might say. Who is trying to kill poor and minority people? Some things are overt, others are covert. When we place different values on different people, it is not long before we begin justifying the elimination of those deemed less valuable. I assure you, it is already happening.
Are you comfortable with the standards we have set for quality of life? The standards keep changing. Fewer and fewer people fit the bill. Maybe you think people who are severely handicapped are better off dead. How do you decide what is severe? What about my mother-in-law who has MS? She would be helpless without a wheelchair. Would you kill her? Maybe you think people who require life support or a feeding tube are better off dead. How do you decide how much medical intervention is too much? What about my stepdad who has diabetes? If you took away the medical intervention of insulin shots, he would die. Would you kill him?
If we continue to accept the notion that we can define another person’s quality of life and kill or “let” them die if they don’t meet our standard, it may come to the point some day where we kill people with MS or diabetes. Do you think I’m being extreme? It’s ridiculous to think that we would allow such a thing. But isn’t it ridiculous to let three-year-old Amelia die because she has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome? The culture of death is already ridiculous. We are there. What are we going to do about it?
I’ve been criticized in the past for comparing abortion to Hitler’s Holocaust. Alongside the Jews, Hitler killed the elderly, the feeble, the handicapped and the retarded. Those who refuse to learn from history are forced to repeat it. These tragedies are never obvious from the start, or we would be better at preventing them. They start with beautiful sounding lies. No more disabilities. No retardation. Every child a wanted child. A pure race… You see? It’s all connected. A culture of death will not self-regulate or hold itself to any moral standard. We must step up to stop it. How much bloodshed will it take before the world cannot stand this Holocaust any more?
Yesterday we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King was a wise man, an activist, a minister, and a true hero. I have no doubt that if he were alive today, he would be on the front lines of the movement against this culture of death.
“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We may sit comfortably at home and ignore these issues while they do not affect us directly. But the tide of death will swell and overtake us. The day these things affect us directly may well be the day it is too late for us to raise our voices in the defense of life and liberty.