An Open Letter in Response to, Princeton Professor, Peter Singer’s Call to Kill Disabled Infants under Obamacare
Recently, I read with great dismay, your comments regarding the call you made for killing disabled infants under Obamacare. I am deeply troubled by the position you hold, which encourages public and private healthcare providers to deny care to severely disabled infants with the intention of infanticide in order to avoid wasting resources on human beings that, you claim, will not have any quality of life and who will be a burden on their parents. You argue that, essentially, the right to life is based on a being’s capacity for intelligence and to hold life preferences, which relates to a beings capacity to feel and experience pleasure. As the Co-Founder and COO of Dutton Farm, a cutting edge non-profit organization that provides employment opportunities and life skills training to adults with disabilities in Rochester Michigan, I find multiple flaws not only in your moral and ethical stance, but also with the very premise of your argument, that disabled persons cannot feel or experience pleasure or pain, maintain no quality of life and contribute nothing back to society as a whole. Your outlandish statements have made it abundantly clear to me that you may know the sterile textbook definitions of the wide range of diagnoses given to persons with disabilities, but you have never had the pleasure of entering into a relationship with someone that is severely disabled. I am absolutely convinced that you have not witnessed the beauty in their eyes as they light up when they see a loved one. You have not heard their laughter or benefitted from their loyalty. You have not observed the determination in their work or the enthusiasm in their experiences. I am surprised, however, that as a person with as much educational background in ethics as you have, that you would not see the critical need to interact personally with a person diagnosed with a severe disability if you are going to make bold assumptions that they are better off dead. I have put together a few bullet points expounding on my claim to your faulty postulation, because it is clear, that you are detached from the reality of the lives that disabled people actually live, and I am deeply concerned that your views are deadly to the disabled population and also destructive to the character of the human race.
-You claim that severely disabled persons have no quality of life. It must not be overlooked that it has been proven throughout history that quality of life for all groups of people is severely compromised when they have been subjected to discrimination and isolation. I would be remiss not to point out that despite the discrimination that persons with disabilities have endured for centuries, their satisfaction in life is extraordinarily stable. Even though they lack the job opportunities afforded to the non-disabled, even though they lack basic social acceptance, even though they face cruel isolation and alienation, it is still found from the Louis Harris poll that between 30 and 40% of individuals with disabilities have stated that they are very satisfied with their lives. I dare say, Mr. Singer, that you would be hard pressed to find any non-disabled person finding more satisfaction than this population despite centuries of isolation, discrimination and abuse. I truly don’t think you have taken a holistic view to the perceived lack of “quality of life” debate. If we look throughout history at the mistreatment of certain groups of people, we can see that the quality of life was severely compromised due to the discriminating stereotypes enforced upon them because of their differences. This predatorial “survival of the fittest” approach to society has proven to be destructive and disastrous. Of course, you of all people are well aware of the harmful nature of this mentality when you saw firsthand as your parents fled Austria during Hitler’s reign and your grandparents were never seen again after being hauled off to a concentration camp. We see now in retrospect that treating people as less deserving because of their differences is not only extremely harmful and morally wrong, but flat out ridiculous.
– It is true, Mr. Professor, that many of my friends that I am fortunate enough to work alongside will never have the capacity to be doctors, lawyers or Princeton professors. I would not deny, that they will never have the ability to solve algorithms, run marathons or eloquently deliver a speech, but you are wrong when you make the assumption that because of these limitations, they are better off dead than alive. In fact, extensive research has shown that the job retention rate is significantly higher for disabled adults than with the non-disabled. Call in rates are lower, work performance is steadier and job enthusiasm is higher. So, although you may not find any adults with disabilities in the medical field, in law school or the NBA, you can encounter them as greeters in a local grocery store, janitors in your public library, caretakers at a farm, bus boys/girls at a restaurant, gardeners at a greenhouse and so much more. Thus, your assumption that these people have no value has a faulty premise, and just because they might not become lawyers, doctors or engineers, does not mean that they should not have the right to live or receive medical care. Furthermore, I would expect you to know that, like disabled adults, a very low percentage of non-disabled adults are categorized in the upper class of society either. In fact, the majority of our great nation is made up of local cooks, farmers, janitors, grocery baggers and restaurant workers, and I am proud to say that this is where the heartbeat of our nation lies. Additionally, I would propose that the soaring unemployment rate for adults with disabilities, where less than 5% of adults with developmental disabilities are successfully integrated into the workforce, is not based on an inability or lack of motivation to work, but rather a lack of opportunity due to discrimination from employers.
-Furthermore, your claim that private and public healthcare providers should deny care to severely disabled infants is a violation of the constitution of America. Denying care to living breathing human beings is an assault on the very constitutional rights that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I want to make sure you caught that constitutional right, “LIFE”, and denying these babies the right to life, is a breach in the constitution, and I believe that any social acceptance of your argument will tear the fabric of our country into shreds.
– Most importantly, although you claimed that “By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct”, I am proud to admit to you that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, and I think you underestimated the amount of Christians willing to defend all human life, including the lives of those who are severely disabled. Yes, we are honored to say that we believe that all humans were created in the image of God and should be treated with utmost value. Although, we are aware that being a professing Christian in academia is not a widely popular stance, we will gladly inform you that we would rather offend you or anyone else in academia than offend the God of the universe. As a Christian, I believe that every person, disabled or not, was created intentionally and with a purpose and the act of destroying human life is a desecration of the Imago Dei.
– In closing, Professor, I would like to invite you….Actually, I would go so far as to dare you to make the trip to Metro Detroit and pay us a visit. I am confident that your view point would be radically changed if you did. If you decide to come, fear not, for although your viewpoints threaten the very existence of my disabled friends here on earth, I am certain that they would still welcome you with a warm and genuine smile and maybe even a hug. I would not deny that you are a highly educated and connected man with a long list of celebrated accomplishments, but regarding your wrongful assumptions that the severely disabled person has a terrible quality of life, I have one thing that you clearly do not have, and it is something much more powerful than education, for it is the privilege of knowing people with severe disabilities. I have deep and meaningful relationships with many adults that have profound disabilities which affect their ability to walk, talk and use their hands. Through those relationships, I clearly see joy, contentment, motivation and the ability to interact with others in deep and meaningful ways. You see, I can testify from my extensive experience, that the innocent goodness in people with disabilities is absolutely breathtaking. Their friendship has made me a better wife, mother, friend and worker. I would even venture to say that my friends with disabilities have contributed more good to this world than I ever could. As I previously mentioned, I would agree that you are a highly educated man, but neither your education, title nor your career gives you the authority nor the ability to predict the future of severely disabled infants or to make claims on what kinds of rehabilitative steps that will be made, because no human is created exactly the same. Furthermore, the body is capable of remarkable things and to make a blanket assumption that is not grounded in any fact, that infants born with severe disabilities will never improve, gain greater awareness or have quality of life is gravely mistaken. Lastly, it is impossible to make assumptions on the happiness or satisfaction of life for individuals that you have never even met! The only person with the ability to make claims on quality of life, is the person themselves or those closest to them. This is precisely why I invite you to Dutton Farm so that you can ask them for yourself!
On Behalf of Many,