Tag Archives: right to life

The most fundamental of human rights

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I am sure that most of you will have been shocked and distressed by recent reports that, during lockdown, Many care homes were ordered to place “Do not resuscitate” orders on all their residents. In many cases, there was no discussion of this with either the residents themselves or their families. About half of these were care homes for the elderly. The other half were for younger adults with learning difficulties or other disabilities.

It is hard to find words for this violation of the most fundamental of human rights – the right to life. We thought we were going into lockdown to protect the most vulnerable, when in reality, there seems to have been a policy of leaving the most vulnerable to die. It seems to have been decided that the lives of elderly and disabled people somehow mattered less than those of the young, or of people free of disabilities.

Even if it could be argued that very frail elderly people often would not benefit from resuscitation, or from treatments like ventilation, this would not apply to the younger, healthy people, who happened to have a learning difficulty, who were also being condemned to die.

This horrifying situation was not confined to the care home sector. Some GP practices put pressure on elderly people, people with certain health conditions, disabled people, and in some cases autistic people, to sign “Do not resuscitate” forms for themselves, and agree that an ambulance should not be called if they were to become ill with Coronavirus. Imagine the feelings of these people, on being asked to agree that their lives were not worth saving. In many cases these were people living alone, unable to see friends and family due to lockdown, and now finding that the health service was apparently turning its back on them. They must have felt utterly abandoned. Many must have despaired. Meanwhile, their neighbours “clapped the carers” every Thursday.
How dare anyone suggest that the life of an elderly, disabled or autistic person is of less value than that of a young, able bodied, neurotypical person?

I hope every liberal believes that every life is of equal value. We must never forget that the most fundamental of human rights is the right to life itself.

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