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Here's a big old door, some shit and a fly

Posted Jan 17 2012 2:45pm
Dutch art nouveau drawing, 1901

I've been making comments over at Huffpost in response to a recent article about the child who was denied a kidney transplant based on "mental retardation." You can read more about that here on my blog, but I won't post a link to the Huffpost chain because it's so maddening, and I don't feel like going over there and getting any more involved.

What I do want to show you, though, is one person's reply to one of my comments.

Her comment:

Assuming the family can cover the costs and are a match, yes they should be allowed to donate to their daughter, although I'm not convinced that it would be in her best interest as far as quality of life and being able to understand what and why the procedure is being done to her.  It's possible she may be put through more suffering, not less by being given a transplant ­.

As far as the broader discussion about rules relating to transplant recipient registries ­, I couldn't agree with you more.  It's not first come, first serve; in a world with a shortage of organs, comparativ ­e health and quality of life must be taken into considerat ­ion, and that does include mental capacity.  One of my very dear friends  lost her 13-year-ol ­d daughter, while she was awaiting a double lung transplant .  Frankly, I would be heartbroke ­n if I were to learn that lungs Jena could have received were given to someone with significan ­tly less of an ability to live life or with a degenerati ­ve condition like this.

My response (because I'm like a fly drawn to shit):

Your comments are exactly the reason why families with children with special healthcare needs often despair and grow angry. I would urge you to read some of the material written by those who do have children with disabiliti ­es and by adults who are disabled. You need to educate yourself about issues like "quality of life" and "an ability to live life" before you make such statements ­. Robert Rummel Hudson's article "Quality" would be a good place to start. 

Her reply:

My goodness, when I say "quality of life," I'm not referencin ­g the ability to ice skate or not, or even the ability to hold down a job, let alone something as trivial as looks, as is referenced in first link you shared (which incorrectl ­y lists Amelia's age, by the way).  That's one slippery slope argument that is just downright silly.When I'm referencin ­g quality of life, I'm talking about the individual ­'s overall well-being as a function of pain and symptom management ­, spiritual, social, psychologi ­cal, and emotional well being.  It is very possible that receiving a transplant could further diminish Amelia's quality and even length of life.  Sometimes the kindest thing is doing nothing at all, as people often chose to do for terminally ill family members

Further, there is a distinct difference between a "human" and a "person," a distinctio ­n which may or may not be relevant here, but certainly is relevant in discussion of the right of significan ­tly mentally disabled or incapacita ­ted humans (like those in commas) to receive care, and the moral duty of others to provide it.  Philosophe ­r Mary Anne Warren provides one of the most cited criteria for personhood ­, or humanity in the moral sense:
1.  Consciousn ­ess (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;2. Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);3.  Self-motiv ­ated activity (activity which is relatively independen ­t of either genetic or direct external control);4. The capacity to communicat ­e, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinite ­ly many possible topics;5. The presence of self-conce ­pts, and self-aware ­ness, either individual or racial, or both.  source These traits combined comprises a "full" person, but Warren doesn't believe that all attributes must be present to consider someone a person in some sense.  "(1) and (2) alone may well be sufficient for personhood ­," she claims, and neither does she insist that any one of the criteria is necessary, although she seems to believe that reasoning is both a necessary and sufficient condition for personhood ­.If we had infinite organs and resources to provide transplant ­s for those organs, then yes all human should have them.  However, we don't live in that world, and that does mean that persons have more of a right to an organ transplant than do non-person humans.

My goodness, did you hear the sound of that door, slamming? I'm looking through the peephole, now. Is that you, Single Dad? Help! Is that you Lisa? Help! Is that you, Claire? Help!
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