16 January 2009

Your work = your worth???

Neglecting Alzheimer’s Patients, Torturing Detainees: Our Only Hope Is to Respect the Dignity of Every Human Being

In this London airport, I am overcome with grief. The headline of the Daily Mail newspaper reads: “An Alzheimer’s Patient Lies in a Grubby Hospital Bathroom: Will the Elderly Ever be Treated with Dignity in Britain?”

Responding to the hospital’s crass solution to its shortage of beds, the eldest daughter of patient Mrs. Gladys Joynes told paper, “We believe she was cynically chosen [to be placed in a smelly bathroom] because she is an Alzheimer’s sufferer and as such would not complain”.

As a society we are losing our ability to think deeply about right and wrong.

My feelings of grief are not mostly over Mrs. Joynes’ predicament, as sad as it is. She’ll be fine; she has relatives who love her unconditionally and who will fight the system in her defense. My sadness is, rather, about the shocking superficiality of the article’s rationale. While trying to evoke outrage against abuses of human rights, it is bereft of any ethical argument in defense of human dignity, the very foundation of our “inalienable rights.”

The chief executive of Royal Liverpool University Hospital Tony Bell, responded to the media spotlight with bureaucratic perfection: “It is not acceptable for a patient to be put into a bathroom”.

I ask, why not?

Such formulas will not work for long. If Mrs. Joynes does not realize where she is, if she does not smell what everyone else does, if she cannot communicate her discomfort, why are we so concerned about her quality of treatment? Do we human beings deserve absolute respect, regardless of our mental and emotional capacities?

For now, most of us would answer “yes.” But very few of us know how to explain our position. And when push comes to shove, and when the person in question is an undesirable, what do we fall back upon?

The problem is not just Britain’s. My eyes now fall on an American story.

The Washington Post reports that a Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base says the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the September 11 terror attacks.

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” Susan J. Crawford told The Post. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution. According to a Foxnews.com article, Crawford is the first senior Bush administration official investigating Guantanamo practices to publicly say a detainee was tortured.

As a society we are losing our ability to think deeply about right and wrong.

Why should we worry about Alzheimer’s patients? Does Mrs. Joynes really care where she is if she is in the bathroom or in a plush hotel room? And don’t these terrorist suspects lose their moral worth by aligning themselves with evil?

Until we, like our Founding Fathers, recognize the inherent dignity of the human person as an inviolable relationship to our Creator, made in His image and likeness, we will continue sliding down the slippery slope of utilitarianism. We will buy into modernity’s sick proposal that people are worth as much as they produce.

God bless,

Father Jonathan

Father Jonathan Morris is author of the new book, “The Promise: God’s Purpose and Plan for when Life Hurts.” For information go to http://www.fatherjonathan.com/


No comments: