Disability Rights – To Life Or Death

Disability Rights - To Life Or Death

I read today in the Wall Street Journal an editorial by Joni Eareckson Tada–which I couldn’t have disagreed with more.

Let me start by saying that I have the greatest respect for Ms. Tada who is herself a quadriplegic and has overcome unbelievable challenges to become a huge successful author, radio show host, and advocate for disabled people.

Yet in the editorial, she rails against those with disabilities that choose death over life and the laws that would enable this.

She says, “first it was assisted suicide,” and now it’s unlawful birth suits after a child was born with severe disabilities that could have been genetically screened for, and an upcoming Belgium law that may “legalize euthanasia for children with incurable diseases–who, with the support of their parents or guardians, ask to die.”

Ms. Tada calls these out as some sort of incredible “double standards” vis a vis the “freedom and dignity that the ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act] championed”–she says that “instead of helping the disabled live full lives, new laws seek to help them die.”

While I appreciate her sentiments, I cannot agree with them–not everyone is Ms. Tada who decided she wanted to live and was able and fortunate to do what she has done.

This is a free country and people deserve the right to decide for themselves, making an informed and a well-thought out decision and with their loved ones, if they are too young, old, or otherwise unable to make the decision anymore for themselves.

Having seen the ravages of disability, especially with my own mother, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and other ailments, I cannot believe that anyone would try to force life on someone who has endless pain and suffering and wishes only for their final peace.

Ms Tada asks, “What type of society do we want?” She goes on claiming that “if we are seeking a good society then we do well to defend the rights of the helpless-not nullify their rights,” yet this is exactly what Tada is advocating by seeking to nullify their right to end their suffering.

If it amazing that people will “put down” a sick dying animal to relieve it of it’s suffering when it is beyond cure, but we don’t show the same mercy to fellow human beings when they are in the clutches of death and torment.

There is most certainly a time when it is enough pain, enough disability, when there is no more hope, and the most decent human thing we can do is free the person from their intolerable suffering.

Life is a wonderful thing if it can be lived, but if it is a living hell, then we should be merciful and let people go to their final resting place without the anguish that only they can ever really understand.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to GizM ()17)

Hold The Pickles, Hold The Lettuce–BABIES!

Remember, the catchy old Burger King commercial about “Have it your way”(where you can order the burger any way you want, no problem!)?

Now, we are reaching the point with DNA testing, where we can have it your way and order up babies the way you want them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, by getting genetic profiles of egg or sperm donors, you can search for a match with the genetic profile of the would-be parent to have a higher likelihood of desired traits (e.g. blue eyes) or lower likelihood of undesirable ones (e.g. heart disease).

23andMe, a DNA company (note: humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes) that sells home testing kits for $99, has patented a process for analyzing DNA and providing information on health and ancestry, and this could be used for system screening of egg or sperm donors through a tool called a “Family Traits Inheritance calculator.”

Calculating better babies by choosing desired matches at fertility clinics is only steps away from actually making marriage decisions based on genetic make-up–in that scenario love is only one factor in choosing a mate and maybe not the primary any longer.

The idea being to screen potential couples before marriage to yield “the best” potential children–smartest, athletic, good-looking, etc.

There are already genetic banks for screening and capturing genetic information on potential couples to avoid genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs and others.

While bioengineering children for better health is one thing, creating a blue-eye and blond-haired race was the Nazi’s concept of an Aryan nation as a superior race that would dominate the world.

The ethical questions of how to screen out illness without creating a situation like in China under a one-child policy, where male offspring are considered superior and so we proverbially tilt the odds in favor of what we think is best even if it may not really be.

Neither a homogeneous superior race, nor a customized bioengineered baby is the answer–rather, we need to value healthy diversity in children, where each is a miracle and a blessing in their own right. 😉

>Match Me With You

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eHarmony and Match.com and other matchmaking sites are all the rage on the single scene with recommended partners for people being done by computer algorithm.

Now this concept of matching of people is going beyond people’s love lives and into the world of business.

CIO Magazine (1 Nov. 2010) reports in an article called “Call Center Matchmaking: Analytics pair customers with the right agents for better service” that companies are using similar technology to match customers and call centers reps in order to get higher satisfaction ratings and increased retention rates—and it’s working!

Since implementing the IBM system called Real-Time Analytics Matching Platform (RAMP), for example, Assurant has increased customer retention rates by 190 percent.

Other companies have been doing customer matching on a more elementary level for some time—for example, financial service firms route calls from high-net worth or high-balance customers to “premier agents.” Similarly, calls made at certain time are “routed to Boise instead of Bangalore.”

With computer systems like RAMP, there is a recognition that customers can do better by being matched with specific customer service representatives and that we can use business analytics to examine a host of data variables from sex and age to persistence in calling to match a customer to “the right” representative to handle their issues.

Based on success rates, computers have been shown to perform sophisticated business and data analysis, and to successfully match people for more successful business (and life) transactions.

If we can successfully pair people for love and for customer service, it makes me wonder what’s next (maybe happening already)? For example, will we pair people to “the right”:

  • Potential adoptee parents?
  • Neighborhoods?
  • Schools?
  • Jobs?
  • Bosses?
  • Coworkers?

In essence, as the “bar is raised” in a highly global and competitive environment, will we be pushed to seek to maximize our potential for success interaction with others—for developing high-performance and highly profitable interactions—by pairing exclusively with those that “screen” positive for us?

With genetic testing already being used to screen for babies that people want—like an order at Burger King—“hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…”—we are already well on our way to “special ordering” the people in our lives.

Companies have also started to use intelligence and personality tests to weed out applicants, and the use of personality tests like Myers Briggs is already being employed for better understanding each other and working together.

However crude all this may be, it is essentially a high-tech way of trying to optimize our performance. The question is can we use technology to enhance personal interactions and elevate performance without subjecting people to undue bias, criticism, and violation of their privacy? This is a very slippery slope indeed.

Another potential problem with computer matching is that when we rely on computers to “tell us” when we have a good match, we are potentially missing potential opportunities for matches with others that cannot be easily quantified or summed up by a computer algorithm? As they say, for some “two birds of a feather flock together” and for others “opposite attract”—we shouldn’t limit ourselves to any creative, positive possibilities in relationships.