Superman and the starship

Dominic Minghella wrote a powerful post recently called ‘Eleven days in March following on from the equally powerful ‘From the dark end of the street’ in which he describes his experience of COVID-19

In his latest post Minghella calls out the government for the eleven day gap between knowledge and action. A period of explicit herd immunity, ‘last gasp of breath’ commentary and the hand of Cummings. Minghella says:

Incredible, isn’t it? Thousands of people suffering or dying or grieving because of those eleven arrogant, stupid, murderous days.

…those eleven days show us that our government has form. Left to its own bewildering devices, it makes terrible decisions.

This gap is now at nearly 40 days as more experts wade in and call out grotesque government inaction. It seems clear that a mis- (or deliberately) guided policy initially focused on the economic (and eugenic) belief that a chunk of ‘burdensome’ people dying through lack of immediate action was no bad thing. A speech by Johnson in Feb highlights his belief that the UK should be the country to soar Superman-styley during the pandemic. Going boldly where no country has gone before.

For disabled people and their families the pandemic has generated an additional layer of fear and terror. Being considered not worthy of life is a jobbing hazard when you don’t fit narrowly defined normative expectations of what it is to be human and it wasn’t long before people were receiving template DNR forms. While we don’t know the number of deaths in care homes and residential settings, it’s obvious this group of the population have been left without adequate care, attention or protection.

In a recent publication, medic David Oliver suggests blanket DNRs are an issue of ‘poor choice of language and a depersonalising style of communication’ rather than a deviation from the general principles of  choice between life and death facing medics:

Oof. Way to go Oliver. Spoken only from the comfort, superiority and safety of not being on the Does Not Count list. A group of disability rights campaigners have launched a legal challenge around the failure of the government and NHS England to publish guidance on how NHS treatment for COVID-19 will be prioritised if demand outstrips supply. We want a bit more than medics ‘choosing carefully’.

Of course, learning disabled and/or autistic people have been suffering or dying or grieving for decades of arrogant, stupid, murderous days. Terrible, terrible deaths. What we are currently witnessing is mainstream bods experiencing what disabled people and families experience as pretty much normal across their (typically shortened) lives. A gut wrenching dismissal of human life through a combination of greed, ignorance, disinterest, fear and arrogance.

There are some green shoots [I know] however. Signs of enlightenment and a wakening and warming of attitudes to difference. Channel 4 News covered the legal challenge live yesterday in cracking coverage. Sky News, similarly, ran with a serious fist pump moment:

A man. A beautiful man. And his family.

Human life.

We have to ask ourselves what the woeful response to COVID-19, leading to countless, devastating deaths, is revealing about the treatment of and response to different people. Reflect on the enforced, widening recognition of what it’s like to be treated like complete and utter shite. As dispensable and disposable. We have to think about what this means about us all as individuals and as a society. And we need to make sure we don’t lose this small light and the too rare tumbling of the marginal and the mainstream.

2 thoughts on “Superman and the starship

  1. God. Dear God what have we let society become. Disposable burdensome sections of the population policied to die.

    Am old enough to remember pt notes where a dr had randomly with often no discussion written ‘ not for DNR ‘ or if hospital were wary ‘ not for 333’ – the code for the recus team. These then marked on the outer folder with a red star so nurses would know when they ran to the bed to just draw the curtains instead.

    I was 17. I was a student nurse. The same generation of now senior NHS professionals commentating. And making decisions. I watched pts in their 30s and 40s deemed not worthy of recuss because the narrow reductionist norms of a privileged sector had deemed it so. And I left nursing as soon as I qualified.

    In the next job I sat in on high exec meetings of a very large psych hospital covering most of North London. Where pts has lived for sometimes 3 decades. Where they talked openly about wastage and savings over winter. They meant people dying would save the hospital money. So dont treat. It was a cost saving.

    I look on now and think nothing but nothing has changed . The same views of worth and burden being applied but justified now as pandemic necessity.

    Sent from Outlook Mobile

    ________________________________

  2. The core principles of eugenics are bubbling to the surface once again, and questions around the perceived relative value of individuals lives have become legit in formal discussions and decisions around health. Scary stuff.

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