15 January 2009

Autism and the Culture of Death




I’m stunned; I really don’t know what to say after reading this article in the Daily Mail (UK) today. The title of the article says it all: “Why can't we face the truth? Having an autistic child wrecks your life”

The author of the article, Carol Sarler recounts the story of her friends, Cath and John and their son Tom, who is autistic. According to Sarler everyone who comes in contact with Tom, including Tom himself has their life destroyed. She outlines how Tom’s autism affects his parents, grandparents and friends and comes to the conclusion that everyone, including Tom would be better off if Tom had never been born. Don’t take it from me; read her final words:

“But looking on, as a relatively dispassionate observer; looking at the damage done, the absence of hope and the anguish of the poor child himself, do I think that everyone concerned would have been better off if Tom's had been a life unlived?
Unequivocally, yes”

Why does this sound so familiar? Oh yeah, because it’s the same argument that is used to advocate for euthanasia, assisted suicide, sex-selected and eugenic abortions. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this. Autism is yet another condition that makes some people “different” and because they are different and don’t fit our preconceived notions of how humans should function, we are all better off if they don’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to trivialize the difficulties that parents with autistic children face; I am sure it is hard, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean that we need to destroy it. What I find even more disturbing about the article is that the author is advocating for a pre-natal test for autism that would allow children suspected of having autism to be aborted. We already have a test like that for Down’s syndrome. The result is that 90% of fetus’s suspected of having Down’s are aborted. But then, what can you expect when people like Ms. Sarler think children with autism are better of never having been born.

I’ve always thought that before you can debate someone, you need to understand their perspective and try to see where they are coming from, but try as I might I cannot wrap my head around the idea that any person is better off never having lived. How can you say that? To say that is to say that existence is unimportant and to deny beauty of life in all its forms.
What perhaps worries me the most is the comments found at the end of the article. Most are supportive of the article. Those who were not supportive generally liked the idea of a genetic test for autism. The comments that speak about the sacredness of life and how every life is worth living are few and far between, and the voting system on the comments generally shows those comments to be viewed negatively by other readers.

It’s so very sad that this is the level our society has come down to. God have mercy on us all.


Tim, a hopeful father said...

Good posting as usual!

Let's compare and contrast with Jenny McCarthy and her message of hope concerning her autistic son. Not bad coming from a former playboy model.


She doesn't view it as a burden.

She is also a great example with respect to her support for abstinence. She is a spokesperson for the Candies Foundation: http://www.candiesfoundation.org/

Not that I'm a cheerleader for Ms. McCarthy, but there are glimmers of hope and sanity out there.


Sarah said...

Thanks for the links Tim; they offer a much more positive, life affirming perspective, and that is something that we all need.