Statement of Concern: People with Disabilities in danger during the coronavirus pandemic

Last week the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) endorsed a Statement of Concern regarding the treatment (or non treatment) of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In releasing this, AFDO stated:

There are much greater risks from the COVID-19 pandemic for people with disability, in particular, for older people with disability, First Peoples with disability, people with intellectual or psychosocial disability, those with chronic health conditions, co-morbidities, dependence on ventilators and compromised immunity.

International Statement of Concerns

This Statement of Concern sets out the Right to Life for people with disability:

Right to Life

People with disability have an inherent right to life on an equal basis with others. To enjoy the right to life, people with disability must be provided with the health care and social services that are essential for their survival. They should not be arbitrarily denied health care or medical treatment on the basis of impairment.

International Statement of Concern

This is a timely reminder that people in our society are not treated equally and we need to systematically and methodically work hard towards creating a Culture of Life which involves upholding human rights for all including people with disabilities.

Babies with disability are often our most vulnerable.  Parents are encouraged to abort pregnancies with an indication of disability and many have described how they had to fight to keep their baby – then child – alive.  I am reminded in particular of the story of Toni Mitchell where she described to the Royal Commission earlier this year how she had to fight for treatment for her son with Down Syndrome:.

Adults with disability often feel as though they need to justify their own existence.  The (late) Stella Young was a strong advocate in this space, claiming:“Social attitudes towards disabled people come from a medical profession that takes a deficit view of disability. This is my major concern with legalising assisted death; that it will give doctors more control over our lives.”

We should also remember our elderly who acquire age-related disabilities resulting in increasing loss of autonomy.  According to leading Senior Rights groups, including Senior Rights Victoria, COVID-19 restrictions could trigger an increase in elder abuse.

Creating a Culture of Life does not only involve advocating against abortion (and beginning of life issues) and assisted suicide (and end of life issues). It also involves advocating for the rights of people with disability to be treated with dignity and respect.

I will leave you this quote as food for thought:

May the culture of life and love render vain the logic of death

Pope John Paul II