The economics of dicing with death
Mike Oliver looks at the link between the struggling economy and the devaluing of our lives and asks if they are really out to kill us?
Two studies published this year have confirmed an uneasy feeling I have had for a while; namely that Britain has become a dangerous place for disabled people to live in. The first comes from the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research which, through a detailed study of disability coverage in newspapers, suggest that disabled people have become modern day ‘folk devils’.
The second study, published by MENCAP, suggests that more than 1200 children and adults with learning disabilities died simply because they didn’t get the right health care. When you put these studies together, it is clear that we live in a culture of death-making as far as disabled people are concerned.
You may think I have taken two unrelated studies and used their findings to draw unwarranted conclusions, but there are lots of other examples which support my theory.
It’s not just the ‘do not resuscitate’ policies that many of us fear every time we go anywhere near a hospital. There are also the written protocols that exist in many health authorities which effectively allow disabled children and adults to be starved and dehydrated to death – even if those protocols are wrapped up in the benevolent language of early non-intervention or end of life policies.
Nor can we expect any significant protection from the law. It’s not just about the lack of protection offered to unborn impaired children when compared to children without impairments either. When disabled people are murdered, often by close relatives, the killers inevitably get lower sentences and sometimes are not sent to jail at all. Nor are we properly protected by the law on hate speech because there have been very few prosecutions and some disabled people have been harassed to the point of suicide.
The recent changes to the benefit system, a system which is supposed to support us in times of need, are also responsible for this death-making. Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions show that 10,600 people died during, or within six weeks, of being put through the work capability assessment (WCA). Expect these figures to rise considerably as the personal independence payment (PIP) programme of assessments is rolled out.
Despite all this, we still see attempts to change the law to make it easier to kill us almost every year; some disabled people even collaborate in the process. And when they don’t get their way, they often pop off to Switzerland or Holland to get the job done amidst a blaze of sympathetic publicity.
All this is not entirely unrelated to what’s happening in the economy. As global capitalism continues to flounder under the massive burden of economic debt it has got itself into, there is no quick fix around the corner. As we are increasingly portrayed as ‘worth less’ it is only a little space on the computer keyboard before that changes to ‘worthless’. And there are many lessons in our history that show that when groups are seen by the rest of society as worthless, then the future is not very bright.
We can’t rely on the politicians to protect us either because they are partly responsible and even collude with this death-making by averting their gaze from what is really happening to disabled people in Britain today. Not that overt death-making policies will ever appear in their manifestos but neither did they appear in the manifesto of the National Socialist Party in Germany and we all know what happened there.
When I put all this together I’m left with the haunting question: am I being paranoid or are they really out to kill us?