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Putting a price on life

Posted Apr 20 2009 11:35pm

Sometimes you really have to wonder exactly what the motivations and priorities are of people who work for disability charities. For example, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities recently commissioned a study that showed that:

The findings, detailed in the Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK report, reveals that children with autism cost £2.7 billion a year, yet for adults the figure is £25 billion – more than eight times as much.

Funded by the Shirley Foundation and led by Professor Martin Knapp at the London School of Economics and King’s College London, the research shows that for adults with autism the highest costs are those generated by health and social care provision (59%), followed by lost employment (36%) and family expenses (5%).

Now, the reason this study was commissioned was apparently to show how;

...[the figures] give serious weight to the argument that more resources are needed to intervene early and effectively in the lives of those who are affected by the condition. Early intervention would help individuals with autism and their families experience a better quality of life and reduce the high costs incurred in later years…

Well, maybe.

To me they smack far too uncomfortably of putting a price – a cost – on a persons life. I wrote about this three years ago and I invoked the spectre of the Nazis. My friend Dinah Murray commented on Mike Stantons blog:

[A] philosopher told me about a Nazi propaganda film he’d seen, called ‘Freedom through Death’. It featured golden haired youths clad in white, wheeling drooling [non]persons around in wheelchairs while the audience was asked to consider how much labour was being wasted on keeping the droolers alive.

Yes, it smacks far too uncomfortably of that. That it was commissioned by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities makes it all the more disturbing.

And lets not beat around the bush here, when you put a financial cost on a life you are explicitly enslaving that person. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 4 states:

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

In all their forms.

And when you enslave someone you cheapen the worth of their life. That individual is referred to as ‘slave’ not ‘person’. The irony here being that the reader of this story is invited to think about how unnecessarily expensive the life of an autistic person is. The ends do not justify the means.

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