Thursday, 10 February 2011

Suffering does not alter the value of each life

Janet Thomas of No Less Human, a group within SPUC which represents disabled people, has kindly sent me her review of a recent article from the mother of a disabled child:
"Who can judge the quality of a life?

This is the title of an article published in the current issue of The New Oxford Review, a publication written from a religious perspective so it is not surprising that the author, Angela Manuel Camel, an American mother from Louisiana, answers this question from a faith deeply rooted in the love and goodness of God who knows what is best for those He has created.

If this were all that we were able to find in this article, it would still be worth reading for many who share Angela’s particular belief as well as all those who have some kind of religious faith. Angela reminds us that a life free of pain is not our automatic right, that for those of faith there is value in suffering and that it is not our right to judge the worth of any life, even those of our own disabled babies and that the attitude of those parents with faith should be one of gratitude for being given the chance to love and care for a vulnerable child.

However, even those who have no faith can find much to ponder in this thoughtful article; Angela reminds us that “the quality of life argument”, that would judge a disabled life as worthless because of the suffering, is flawed in that the judgement is not made from the point of view of the disabled child for whom this is the only life she has known and moreover, ignores the fact that the pain she suffers is always accompanied by the ‘encompassing love’ of her family. Angela reminds us all of how important love is in countering suffering. We have a duty to relieve suffering, it is true, but it is in our response to those whose suffering is severe that we show the real depth of our love and compassion. True compassion lies in remembering that suffering does not alter the infinite human value of each life; to advance suffering as a reason for killing disabled unborn babies is a sham love which sees a disabled or suffering life which may be very short as of less worth than a ‘perfect’ one; to judge the lives of suffering people as of little value is to turn our backs on the greatest learning adventure life has to offer. It is only by opening our hearts to suffering, our own and that of others especially our children, that we can enlarge them to accept and appreciate the infinite value, dignity and worth of every human being.

Angela ends with these moving words, “He (God) blessed me and my husband with a child who is as close to perfect as a child could be. Many would remark in confusion, “Perfect? She cannot walk, or talk, or eat on her own, etc.” My response is that she can love and has received love beyond measure. How much more perfect could she be?”"
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