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Philip Anderson   |  85 Comments  |  

Value of Life – Are we all worth the same?

The pandemic exposes us to life and death decisions over which we have no say. Philip Anderson reflects on how such decisions affect us all.

Philip is an advocate for barrier-free accessibility, equality, and inclusiveness for persons with disabilities. He is involved in several initiatives in the NHS, and with various disability and accessibility advisory groups.

He has become a regular contributor to Independent Living, and is active on Twitter @phandi(link to Twitter will open in a new browser window)
 

Life and death decisions

We all have to make decisions in life. Many are simple, daily decisions. But how do we decide which option to choose when no option is risk-free?

Life and death decisions

In 1967, philosopher Philippa Foot established what became known as The Trolley (or tram) Dilemma. You happen to be by a lever that could steer a runaway trolley away from killing five people, to killing one person. Maybe you would choose the one to die.

But, what if that person was pregnant, or elderly, or obese, or in a wheelchair? Or the five were older manual labourers? No matter what choices you are posed, they all present ethical issues.

The one thing these decisions have in common, is prioritising and saving lives, but not every life.
 

Putting a value on human life

For decades, L’Oréal used the slogan ‘Because You’re (or I’m) Worth it’, entreating the consumer to pay the premium for their hair product. It is the subject of countless memes, substituting the woman with flowing, silky hair. The slogan’s success is in appealing to the consumer to consider their self-worth, and enhance self-esteem.

But what are we worth? Are we all worth the same?

Putting value on human life

In the UK, a former Supreme Court judge recently caused controversy during a televised debate, telling a woman with stage 4 bowel cancer that her life was ‘less valuable’ than others. He was arguing lives do not have equal value, as some people are more important, or contribute more to society than others.

Across society, many condemned his comments, asserting you cannot put a value on different people’s lives. However, that is exactly what governments do when assessing policies, comparing the economic and human cost to expected benefit of alternative policy decisions.

There is an internationally recognised formula for measuring cost, and quality of potential life expected from different treatments, or interventions, a patient could have. The formula is known as a QALY, short for calculating a quality adjusted life year.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, physicians and governments have had to prioritise lives in considering ethical questions, such as: Who should have access to a limited supply of ventilators? What priority order should the population be vaccinated?

For doctors and nurses, prioritising some Covid patients is counter to their guiding principle of caring equally for all, the foundation for trust the public has in the medical profession. Making these decisions has added to the stress and exhaustion of working long hours in the pandemic.

 

You before me?

In 1997, audiences flocked to see the epic film, Titanic. Undoubtedly, the film’s teenage love story of Jack and Rose appealed to many, propelling Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to global stardom.

The film successfully takes you on the fateful voyage in 1912, admiring the wonder of the engineering enabling such a huge, glamorous, luxury liner to float. Until it hit the iceberg, of course.

You before me

When Titanic started slowly sinking, everyone knew they would die, unless they get on a lifeboat. Each person had time to consider what action to take.

Knowing there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers, would you stand back and allow others to board the lifeboats before you?

What would guide your decision? Women and children first?

I suspect I would be abandoned in my wheelchair, either because of the time it would take to get me in a lifeboat, or because most would consider my life had little value.

 

Respecting right to life

Last year, many months after I went into lockdown, I got a phone call from my doctor’s surgery. My surprise at receiving the call, having had little or no contact with the medical profession that supported me prior to Covid, turned to amazement when told the reason for the call.

Respecting right to life

Had I completed a respect form.

On probing, I realised the call was about my end of life wishes. I discovered ReSPECT (Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Treatment and Care) had replaced what was known as the DNAR (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation) form, I had previously completed. The tone of that call left me feeling I was being written off.

Sometime ago, following a sensitive discussion with my hospice palliative consultant, I stated my wish not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if I had cardiac or respiratory arrest. It is not a death wish, but recognition of the unlikelihood of surviving an attempted CPR, or a level of recovery leaving me with rib fracture, damage to internal organs, and brain damage.

The DNAR does not imply my agreement to other clinically appropriate treatments being withdrawn or withheld. I want to live as long as possible.

 

Stormy waters

Covid has been catastrophic for people with a disability. We make up some 15% of the population, but 60% of fatalities last year.

Our right to life has been qualified, possibly by using the QALY formula. Apart from a concerted effort to ensure ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders are on our records, social care funding has been cut and, unless classified clinically extremely vulnerable, we are not a priority for vaccination.

Frustrations and feelings of vulnerability come with disability and long-term illness. I wrote Storm Inside to express how vulnerability can play on my mind at night, amplified in Covid isolation by the pandemic storm.

There’s a raging storm, inside
Thunder rumbling, in my head
Inner turmoil, amplified
Anxious, for what lies ahead

Lying supine, on my back
Legs and arms, immobilised
Praying, my morale won’t crack
Fears, frustrations, crystallised

May the night, bring me balm
To still my anxiety
Peacefulness, strength to calm
my vulnerability

It is as if the captain and crew on mother earth, have abandoned those with disability to the pandemic storms without a Covid-free lifeboat.

 

We are all valid

With the breaking of dawn, I put aside my fears, determined to make the most of each new day. All I ask for is no extra hurdles and impediments to be put in my way.

Some may regard me as an invalid, a horrible word. But, as I have long quipped ‘I am not invalid’.

We are all valid

I may not be able to care for myself, being dependent on my carer. I may not be able to make a difference every day, however that may be measured. But, I have a valid voice, and want to live.

With that voice, I make this appeal to pandemic policy decision makers all over the world.

You have a responsibility to protect your people from the storm with appropriate measures, culminating with a successful vaccination programme.

In the meantime, please don’t direct the path of the runaway pandemic to hit hardest the elderly, vulnerable, most disadvantaged, and those with disability.

We have as much a right to life as you and everyone else. Or do we?

 

What choices would you make?

When a policy decision effects categories of nameless people, it is easy to feel distant from its impact. In reality, we are all affected in some way.

In a Comment below the article, please share your thoughts on this article and any reflections on these questions:

Do you think everyone should have the same right to life?

How would you feel if your loved ones, or others close to you, were considered of little use and valued less by others?

Would you be happy to put the disadvantaged before you in receiving treatment or the vaccine?

Where are you in the vaccination priority order?

There is good news, better days will come, the pandemic storm will abate.

As Johnny Nash sang in his uplifting song, I can see clearly now the rain is gone

Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day.

This version filmed and recorded remotely during the pandemic by artists from around the world, gives us a taste of the joy we will feel when we have overcome the obstacles, and can share bright, sunshiny days.

I guarantee it will put a smile on your face, and give you a fillip.

 

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Further reading and resources

In between articles on Independent Living, you can keep up-to-date with Philip’s activities by following him on Twitter @phandi (external link will open in a new browser window)

You can learn something of Philip’s condition, and determination to live as full a life as possible in this article

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85 Replies to “Value of Life – Are we all worth the same?”

    AvatarJ Kathy Melcher says:

    I’m a chronic pain patient with severe widespread constant pain and have had increasing pain for 38 years. For 20 years I had some relief and was a wife, mother,house keeper and gardener. 5 years ago my meds were lowered supposedly to save people from addiction and OD. They use to classify civilization by how they took care of their elderly and disabled. We are now going away from civilization into eugenics. My health is failing because of under treated pain so I could probably get the vaccine soon, but I never leave my house anymore so I’ve been waiting to let the people who need it more go first. This world isn’t what I thought it was and I’m disappointed in people. People don’t realize they are one accident or illness away from being disabled and suffering. One day it could be them, why don’t they care about that?

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Kat, thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.

    I am dismayed that you have had to deal constant pain for so many years. My health issues are trivial in comparison,

    My heart goes out to you 🙏 💜

    Another thoughtful & beautifully written article, Philip. Thanks so much for sharing ♡

    Do you think everyone should have the same right to life? I do ♡

    How would you feel if your loved ones, or others close to you, were considered of little use and valued less by others? Angry, anxious, scared…so many things.

    Would you be happy to put the disadvantaged before you in receiving treatment or the vaccine? Definitely ♡

    Where are you in the vaccination priority order? Quite low, I suspect! I work from home as a freelancer, so I’m definitely not an essential worker. I’m also under 30.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Halley, thanks for the positive feedback, and for sharing your thoughts

    AvatarDebbie McMannis says:

    Very thoughtful article Philip. It made me stop and reflect which doesn’t happen often. I think Covid is teaching us that the days of ‘survival of the fittest’ are behind us. A new energy is being born which includes everyone. We are all souls on the same ship and we are all connected. Your life means just as much as anyones does. You might be in a wheelchair but your voice needs to be heard. You make us all stop and think and when that happens we make better choices. Thank you.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Debbie, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I hope you are right, ‘a new energy is being born which includes everyone’.

    The world would be a better place if everyone recognises we are ‘all souls on the same ship and we are all connected’

    AvatarKate says:

    Do you think everyone should have the same right to life? – YES

    How would you feel if your loved ones, or others close to you, were considered of little use and valued less by others? – APPALLED AND ANGRY

    Would you be happy to put the disadvantaged before you in receiving treatment or the vaccine? – Yes, and I have done in previous situations

    Where are you in the vaccination priority order? – Right at the bottom. I don’t think I’ll get my first dose until Autumn 2021 at the earliest.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Kate.

    Sorry to have made you appalled and angry thinking about your loved ones in that way!

    AvatarAmanda Collins Beams says:

    I really enjoyed the article. Please don’t ever allow anyone to make you feel “less than”. Regardless of any “disability”, we are all equally vital to life on this planet in one way or another

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Amanda, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
    Thank you for your encouragement

    AvatarWhitney Rix Victory II says:

    Philip, every life is of great value, as long as they keep possibility alive in their heart. No man is less or more than another. The judgment of your life is solely in the Hands of our Creator. One day, your spirit will be free of the cage we call the body, but you are a wonderful man, therefore I do not wish that day to come anytime soon. My sister is in a wheelchair, so this is a weight upon my heart. Somedays I wish it was me instead, but who would care for her if her husband passed? How would it affect her if I left? I cannot bear the thought. I wish that she could be healed and you as well. I’m wiping away tears as I write this, because though you are shackled now, your mind and soul are free, and you are a beautiful soul. The call you received horrifies me, it’s not truly aligned with the profession and oath of a physician. I’m greedy, I’d love for you to stay and to come see you and discuss life, the world or whatever, it would be a joy. Don’t rush to leave, but when it is unbearable, you should not linger for anyone but yourself and your family. Conversely, they are the greatest reason to keep your faith and hope and pray for healing, for a miracle. I’m sure my words are awkward.,but my intent is not. So many of us in the writing community love you and are inspired by you, and your value to us is beyond measure. Surely you touch your family and inner circle in the same way. I pray for you and yours and I so wish you were well. You are a battered angel, but rush not to join the others, savour every drop of life and it’s joy that you can and know we pray for you here. I am so honoured to call you friend that words fail me.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Whitney, thank you SO much for your reflection, which is deeply touching.
    Your sister is fortunate to have you in her life.
    I appreciate your prayerful thoughts, bless you 🙏

    AvatarDianne says:

    A thought provoking article Philip.
    COVID-19 certainly put all medical staff in a difficult place having to make horrible decisions about who gets priority to equipment that can save lives. I’m so happy I wasn’t one of them – medical staff or patient.
    My own experience over the past 2 years makes me reflect on the treatment I’ve received. I ponder whether a male would have been expected to live with the pain I was suffering for the rest of his life or be subject to comments about saving the health system some funding. I suspect not.
    I insisted on a second opinion from a surgeon who correctly identified the source of my pain. It is now fixed and no more pain.
    I changed doctors as well.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Dianne, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Mercifully, my family have all managed to avoid Covid. I have had my second vaccine and my wife gets her second one next week.

    Sorry to hear of your painful experience. You did well to pursue a second opinion. What a relief to be out of pain!

    AvatarJoseph M Kurtenbach says:

    Thank you for this very thought-provoking and well written piece, Philip, and for making me aware of it through Twitter. There are also so many excellent responses here, and I have read through them all so far. I feel compelled to add just one thing–and it is somewhat of a different moral question than what you are getting at, I know, but I kept thinking about it every time someone stated essentially that all human life is of equal value or equally precious. These are pretty broad declarations. What about the life of someone who tortures, rapes, and murders? Is their life of equal value to their victims? Is a taker of lives as valuable as someone who doesn’t? If we must make a choice about who lives or dies, who gets a place in the lifeboat, who gets hit by a trolley, I must confess in this case the choice would be an easy one for me, no matter who the other person was. Unfortunately, choices are rarely so easy or absolute. Again, I know this is off topic, but I do recall someone asking for my thoughts 🙂.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Joseph, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s a challenging issue, or should be if we think about it. No simple answers.

    AvatarGeraldine Marsh says:

    I always thought Doctors were suppose
    To save lives not end them.
    Who gives them the right to pick and choose who lives and who dies.
    Everybody’s life is valuable regardless
    What disability they have wether they are old . They went into this profession
    To save people and help them it’s not their decision to end someone’s life
    Every human being has a value

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Geraldine for sharing your thoughts

    I try to put myself in others’ shoes, and imagine it must be hard for many doctors to make decisions they probably never envisaged having to do when they started training

    AvatarGeraldine Marsh says:

    I had a very disabled son unfortunately he past away eight months ago he never got the same chances in life has
    People without disabilities l witness this all through his life. Every life is precious
    Regards Geraldine

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Geraldine, my heart goes out to you, may your son rest in peace 🙏

    AvatarGeraldine Marsh says:

    Thank you

    Thought provoking, Philip, and an important dilemma well captured. I would like to think that every life is equally valuable but, for me, if there were any priority on life it would be for the young who still have theirs to lead…

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks for sharing your thought, Simon

    Thanks for another great article, Philip!

    I don’t have to look too far…

    In March 2020, I got sick. I was coughing and wheezing, and my chest felt so tight that I couldn’t inhale. I tried to get tested, but the only hospital near me turned me away because they were “not equipped to deal with the virus” and when I called to see where I could get tested, I was told there weren’t enough tests and I was “not a priority” because I did “not have a fever.” When I looked online, it was specifically mentioned that many had the virus without having a fever, but that didn’t matter to the people who were in charge of testing for the virus.

    Still to this day I don’t know if I had Covid-19. All I know is I was very sick for weeks, I got better for about ten days, and then it started all over again. I knew there was no cure for the virus. I just wanted to get tested to know what I was dealing with. Also, if I didn’t have the virus, I could show proof that it wasn’t the virus at the hospital door and get treated for whatever it was. If it was bronchitis, I didn’t want it to turn to pneumonia.

    Long story short, I was sick half of 2020 and I never saw any kind of medical professional. I didn’t have contact with anyone and always wore a mask. My neighbors, on the other hand, were having parties every day and calling the pandemic a hoax that would go away after the elections… until their beloved president got the virus, that is. Said neighbors were the first ones to get the vaccines, too, as they were “veterans,” “older,” and “more vulnerable” – even though they enjoyed spreading the virus around for months with no regard for others’ safety. I’m still waiting for my turn.

    This experience alone should clarify my position on the topic. I believe every life should be valued and all people should be treated equally when it comes to healthcare. I believe I should have the same rights as everyone else but also the option to give up that right if I felt a person was sicker or more vulnerable than me. I know people of all ages, some of whom suffered because it was decided they weren’t as “valuable” as others. I don’t think that’s right. What makes a person “important” is a matter of politics, not human decency. Hitler was an important person.

    I’d like to add that I loved your poem, Storm Inside, and totally got it. I spent many nights in 2020 with those same thoughts in addition to wondering what would happen to my three dogs if I didn’t make it.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Philip.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Noosha, I am horrified you have endured such a dreadful experience. I cannot imagine how frightening it must be to be so ill and isolated.

    It adds insult to injury that your neighbours could behave so irresponsibly, and be ahead of you in getting a vaccine.

    I hope you are feeling much better, and don’t have lingering health problems as a result.

    Thank you for the feedback on my poem, I can understand how you would relate to it

    You write such thought provoking and insightful articles, Philip. Reading them is always a gift for me.
    I appreciate your emotional honesty and vulnerability in bringing up a subject that is so important and yet has been ignored in the glorification of money in our capitalistic society: Human Dignity. Our religious traditions tell us that Human Beings have intrinsic value. However we don’t live that. We value money more than life. As the years pass we become less aware how we’ve strayed from our values.
    The root of it is scarcity, yes. The reason that something as important as health care in a crisis has less supply than demand is the lack of priority on it. If we had an abundance of health care resources, the question of who gets cared for wouldn’t come up.
    Our value system and our culture need a transformation of priorities. I commit to that and hope others join.
    Thank you for your Wisdom, Philip. You are indeed a Treasure 🥰 💖

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Tricia!
    You are a powerful advocate for goodness and reconciliation.
    I greatly appreciate your support and encouragement 🙏🕊

    AvatarKat Hopps says:

    That was a excellent read Philip, and beautifully written. The questions you pose have no easy answer, as many have said, but it is so important that your voice is heard. I had never heard of the trolley dilemma before. It’s the sort of horror that you hope will happen to you. I think that’s how many of us honestly live – just hoping we never have to be the decision-makers.

    How an individual life can be valued so clinically and cruelly is harsh but I guess is a necessity when you come to actions requiring large-scale responses. But you would hope that there is greater consideration to a person’s worth aside from their economic value or the number of years they have left on this earth, although we know that’s often not true. I feel guilt at not necessarily having to previously consider these questions at all. But I hope that all of us can be a better person in reading this and making a stand for disabled people, the vulnerable or exploited wherever possible.

    Carry on writing – you’re a real talent!

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Kat, I appreciate your comments and encouragement

    AvatarAsha G Kumar says:

    A brilliant article that sustain the ethical dilemma with no easy answers. Are all lives equally valuable? Truly, such forceful questions come to the fore in the most unexpected and unnerving situations.
    I admire the grace, the erudition and practicality you have displayed and steered away from moral didactism.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Asha, thanks so much for your encouraging feedback

    AvatarPaula Gibeson says:

    Thank you Philip!! You have clearly stated my thoughts for the past year. As a retired/disabled nurse, COVID has broken my heart & spirit numerous times this past year. Well said & I hope many others read you words….and realize truth!!!!💔

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks YOU, Paula!

    AvatarJoanne Quinnell says:

    Love this article, so raw and something that plays on everyone who has a disability/illnesses mind . We strive to show that actually we are still very much a valuable part of society with much to offer in many ways but constantly are told we aren’t equal or good enough. There are many buildings we still can’t access the services that are provided are substandard ie wheelchair, equipment, adaptions, housing and so forth. Sometimes it seems like you spend all your time fighting for the things you need just so you can function like everyone else and do the things that are important in life .

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Joanne, thanks for your feedback, and for sharing some of the challenges those with disability face

    AvatarSipora Coffelt says:

    One of the things I’ve learned as I age is that my life is far less valuable than it was before age 65. My doctor shrugs and says, well, you’re in your 70’s. And since I’m married to a man in his 80’s, I see that this reduced valuation becomes less with each decade.

    Thing is, I don’t feel less valuable. I know my 80+ year old husband isn’t. We continue to life productive lives, each in our own way. Maybe it’s time humans learned to hold every life as sacred, ethical dilemmas be dmaned.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Sipora, of course you and your husband are valuable, in a different way from when you were both younger. I think government policy is partly a reflection of societal attitude towards ‘seniors’.

    In Asia, seniors are respected and treated with deference. Sadly, in many countries in the West, they are regarded as a burden on society, and are poorly supported, even by their own families.

    AvatarDavid Winskill says:

    Thanks for this Philip. The crucial thing about these dilemmas is that we keep thinking, talking and writing about them. Letting them fade into the background could lead to some terrible, brutal decisions being made with no accountability.

    The pandemic has thrown up a lot of similar dilemmas to the ones you describe – how do we reconcile imploring people to “Stay at home if you can” with the army of poorly paid workers on insecure contracts out there who we expect to fetch and carry, wash and tend and generally look after us at their own personal risk? Pretty soon the debate about world-wide vaccination will really get going and prompt the question of how we reconcile protecting desperately poor populations with the understandable impulse to look after ourselves first.

    One thing that thing that this crisis has started is a look at how we might want to changes things in the world for the better. Alongside a re-evaluation of how we treat less-abled people, we should perhaps be looking at the wider question of how we value and respect each other and what sort of world would improve these relationships and make life more tolerable and worth living for so many people.

    The 20th century American Philosopher John Rawls thought about these matters: he wrote a book called A Theory of Justice and came up with the twin notions of the “original position” and the “veil of ignorance”. Simply put, if at the moment of birth (the original position) none us knew (the veil of ignorance) if we were going to be born black, white or brown, rich or poor, man or woman, straight or other, healthy or less abled .. then what sort of world would we like to be born into?

    Okay, I’m male, straight and white so life isn’t too bad at all. But what would like have been like if I had been born female, Ethiopian, poor and with a cleft palate?

    Take a few moments to think this through and you’ll soon find that there are plenty of inequalities in the world that no-one would chose to be on the wrong side of.

    Once again, we are in debt to Philip for getting initiating this conversation.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    David, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    The optimist in me hopes that the pandemic will lead to a worldwide reflection on the fundamental issues you raise. This is an opportunity to rethink how we treat individuals in the most challenging situations, and for the wealthy nations to work together in supporting the ‘desperately poor populations, with the necessities of life.

    We can do so much better.

    AvatarSue says:

    I’m full of praise for the places where independent living is available with support. Just wonder how pandemic has hit them. My husband does not have Covid to my knowledge but has again been confined to his bedroom 24 hours a day as there are cases in the home. With dementia he doesn’t understand why I’ve recently visited for one or two visits a week now being told I cannot come to see him!! It’s heartbreaking! They’re vaccinated with second dose due soon ( which will no doubt be cancelled) I’m vaccinated and tested before entry and his mood has dropped again! He had started to be bit interested in the 4 visits I’ve had in last 3 weeks and I’ve felt better myself by helping him!!

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Sue, my heart goes out to you and your husband.

    It must feel desperately unfair, and stressful for you. I hope you will soon be able to visit him regularly.

    My best wishes to both of you

    AvatarMike Hey says:

    Wow, very thought provoking and I’m so glad I’m not a policy maker. I also think of all those decisions and priorities that those amazing NHS Dcotors and Nurses have had to make. Such a tough set of considerations.

    Thanks for sharing Philip and can I assure you, you are very much ‘Valid!’

    Take care!

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Mike

    AvatarMo Stewart says:

    What a thought provoking article. Thank you Philip. Unless CPR has changed since I was a cardiac care technician, it shouldn’t leave you with fractured ribs, damage to internal organs or brain damage… Long before Covid, clinical decisions were taken daily in hospitals regarding survival, due to diagnosis and treatments etc. These are clinical decisions and nothing to do with someone’s life being more important than another’s.

    On the other points I’m afraid a right-leaning neoliberal government, who adopted a dangerous assessment model for disabled working-age people and the philosophy that disability benefit claimants are all benefit cheats, has negatively impacted a lot on public opinion. That’s why disability hate crimes increased by 213%…

    When working in healthcare, all my patients were just as important as each other, and that is the way society should function, but doesn’t in today’s world where the only people of value are deemed by government to be working and paying taxes. This is a unique website. Most people don’t see it and many members of the general public, and their callous disregard for those in greatest need, may not come to the same conclusion that all life matters, but at least this website always finds those with a caring heart, missing from modern day politicians. http://www.mostewartresearch.co.uk (external link will open in a new browser window)

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Mo, thank you for your comments and for introducing me to your research website, which I will explore

    AvatarValerie Bradley says:

    Philip,
    I feel like you that if we do not fit in with most humans idea of persons worth saving,then we are effectively ignored,l remember in the first lockdown an mp in the Welsh parliament gave a speech to the parliament,about the fact that there was some good news regarding the covid 19 pandemic,in that it will get rid of all the bed blockers.
    Disgusting yes but there was not anyone that complained about what she had stated.
    Even more disgusting.
    I know there are many of you struggling to survive,fighting every day for the right to be treated as other citizens are treated,and it’s hard to change intreached attitudes.
    Years ago the oldest amongst you will remember jack Ashley who was a disabled MP he fought a long hard battle for the disabled,and all the rights he gained were swept away by David Cameron’s coalition goverment,David Cameron had a seriously disabled son Ivan and he talked a lot about the NHS being there for Ivan,and that the benefit system DLA helped with the things that ivan needed.
    Then the coalition government started to dismantle the welfare state,and all that David Cameron said about the support he received for his son,sounded very hypocritical he was destroying the support that for years supported his son,while other disabled people struggled to eat pay their Bill’s,pay their care Bill’s,where were the health and care support,that these persons needed.
    It was not there so they killed themselves,and as usual there was no public outcry at what was happening.
    Why you might be thinking was there no public outcry,l think it shows that the disabled
    are seen as a drag on public funds,are not perfect so they have no right to any of the things that the rest of the population enjoy.
    How to change these attitudes,will take time to change but a good start will be for the disabled, to stand as Parliamentary candidates at elections may be attitudes will change when there is disabled MP’S in parliament fighting for our rights
    Valerie Bradley

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Valerie, thank you for sharing your thoughts and examples, which provide much food for thought.

    I well remember Jack Ashley, in many ways a pioneering MP. I wish there were more visibly disabled members of Parliament, preferably in the Cabinet. There are several wonderful, campaigning, members of the House of Lords, who do sterling work.

    You may find it interesting to read an earlier article (What would you do with the NHS) If you were Prime Minister https://www.independentliving.co.uk/philip-anderson/nhs-if-you-were-prime-minister/

    in which I reflect on some of the issues you raise, which ended with

    P.S. Though I am never going to be PM, I am rather warming to the idea of having a PM (or any minister) with visible disability going up Downing Street in their wheelchair. Wouldn’t that be a powerful image that could change stereotypical attitudes that individuals with disability are useless and are to be pitied?

    AvatarChipmunk says:

    Oh, this is a hard one. I tend to choose not to think about it, but I have that luxury and someday (or tomorrow, who knows?) I might not. So I simply can’t say for certain, but I can say I will definitely think it over now. I may not come to a satisfactory conclusion; but it’s still worth consideration. One thing I can give a sure answer on is the vaccine; I’m far down the ladder (or have been so far) and I’m perfectly fine with waiting my turn. It only makes sense that those more vulnerable than I should go first.

    Thoughts are with you, Philip. Thank you as always for sharing. I really do appreciate you and your posts.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Rebecca, Rebecca, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for your encouragement

    AvatarClaire Mmuoe says:

    Wonderful read.
    Every single life is important no no matter the cercumstance or situation. We all have the same right to life family included.
    Every life matters.

    I’d put someone who needs more help than me before me or help them if I have the resources. Life is a balancing act you benefit by helping be others.

    We be are still in phase 1 of the vaccine rollout. ( Health and Frontline workers first . I’m thankful that my mother received her shot. Phase two is the elderly and three is everyone else. We all have to register. My only worry is that not a lot of people have access to the net or the resources they need , but our president said we will all get vaccines.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Claire, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I hope it will not be long before you receive your vaccine

    AvatarJohn L. DeBoer says:

    Are all human lives of equal value? It’s a philosophical question with two different answers, one ideal and one based in reality. “All men are created equal.” Ignoring the apparent sexism of that statement, an idealist would have to agree with it. But once created, what then of that life? Is it equal to that of any other? The answer, as evidenced by countless examples, is no. Criminal justice has demonstrated, time and again, a bias against minority lives. Civil suit settlements are based on the earning power of the “victorious”victim’s potential lifetime earnings. As a trauma surgeon, I was trained in triage – which mass-casualty survivors deserved an all-out attempt to save their lives and which would be relegated to secondary – or no – such efforts? Your Titanic scenario addressing a wheelchair-bound passenger was on point. I dare say that no one, except your loved ones on that sinking ship, would propose that you should have a lifeboat seat before others. Youth trumps age; wealth Trump’s poverty; high social status trumps Joe Sixpack. Life isn’t fair, but the privileged have a better chance to weather any bumps in the road – with society’s blessing! In an ideal world, all would be valued equally and would be treated the same. But the real world doesn’t work that way.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    John, thanks for sharing your thoughts. As ever, logically argued.

    AvatarDiane R. says:

    Reading your article made me think about military doctors serving in war, who must decide in the snap of a finger who to help and who is past help but still alive. Awful, awful decisions to make, decisions I’m glad I’ll never have to make.

    When COVID-19 was quickly spreading in the US early last year, one congressman who didn’t want businesses closed and masks mandated told everyone who was 65 and older that we should be “willing to die” so that those who were younger could continue to live life as usual. I remember thinking, “Those who are younger should be willing to go through some inconveniences so ALL people can live.”

    When it comes to preventive measures, I believe the most vulnerable should be first in line (after frontline workers). I just received my second vaccine today and am happy. If the CDC had called and said, “Someone who is vulnerable needs your appointment and the vaccine,” I would have stood aside.

    And if one wants to compare the worth of a vaccine developer with the worth of an “everyday person,” then one has to remember that everyday people gave birth to that vaccine developer, and everyday people gave birth to them, and on and on. All life is sacred. All life is worthy.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Diane, thanks for your thoughtful response.

    You make valuable observations and well reasoned arguments.

    Your final paragraph makes a powerful point, thank you

    AvatarAlicia says:

    Firstly thank you beautiful Human-Phillip for Tagging me. I appreciate your thinking of me and your kind heart more than you know.
    This article has touched me deeply because it has brought me to the awareness of how we define life based on our personal perception and not on the definition of ‘LIFE’ as every life is equal and non should be stigmatized or be treated as different or not deserving of equal opportunities. I quote you “we have much right to life as you and everyone else.” I am so proud of you and how very eloquently you have share such painful experiences in this article. I hope the awareness that have arisen in me will also be awakened in other. To treat a Humans as equal, irrespective of their incapacity or disabilities.
    Take care and my best wish for your health and happiness dear Philip 🌿🤍

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Alicia, thank you so much, I appreciate your kindness and encouragement

    AvatarOdri Seva says:

    No, I don’t be proud to my self… but I’ve shouted out #therighttobehealthy since 2018 over this planet to warn the worldwide people about the real situation. Yes. it relates to how we value the life of ourselves and others. I know what feeling you want to articulate because I had the experience in 2010… By deeply frustration, I surrendered my life to The Almighty God … but the God didn’t want it happened, yet. Hence… I know that the God loves us so greatly … He gives each body the same capability to heal from any disease… but frequently, we don’t understand it truly… Thanks for this great article… Philip … as you know my domestic group hashtags in Twitter are to fight against injustice.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Odri, I admire your determination and wish you well

    Philip, this article is poignant and thought-provoking. And so beautifully written, as always. These are such thorny questions you raise. My heart and my upbringing tells me all people should be equal, they are life, no matter their age, race, gender, religion, origins, abilities or disabilities. I know the world doesn’t work that way. Wish it did. My head says I’ll never know what choice I would make if faced with giving up my life for someone else, a la the Titanic example you cited. I hope I’d make the right choice. As to who should have been first to receive COVID vaccines, I can see logic in starting with front line workers and seniors as most vulnerable. That should have included anyone in those categories with any kind of disability, too. Hope it did. As others have commented, these are difficult decisions made, I hope, for the right reasons. I’ve had to make some very difficult personal decisions over the years. I’m relieved I haven’t been tasked with making any that impacted all of mankind and society. I empathize with your concerns and wish you all the best. Please keep writing.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Claudia for your thoughts and feedback.

    As you say, these are thorny questions. In time, enquiries will be held to review how the pandemic has been managed, and the lessons to be learnt.

    It will be important to review the criteria for privatising Covid patients and for vaccinating the public. I hope the voice of the most disadvantaged will be heard

    AvatarFrances A Parris says:

    Every life matters – of course it does. But we also have to recognise it is an absolute challenge to vaccinate everyone in society and it’s doubtful governments will get it right. I hope they will learn from this, for future generations…
    I guess I’m lucky because I’ve had my first vaccine already and I’m in my forties – did I deserve it? I don’t know if my underlying condition warrants it, but it seems doctors made that call for me and I’m grateful I have a chance and with my two young kids. And I think it’s fair to say my kids think I’m worth it.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Frances, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Like you, I hope governments will learn the lessons from this pandemic.
    I am glad that you had your first vaccine, and hope it will not be long before you get your second.
    May your kids always think you’re worth it!

    AvatarLeslie Kain says:

    When the need exceeds resources to meet the need, that is when we are faced with no-win decisions. It is like the iconic “Lifeboat Conundrum” that’s part of every Philosophy student’s curriculum. There are no easy answers. Even if you could conduct in-depth interviews of each “passenger” on that lifeboat, and project all futures, resolution would still be impossible.
    We are not ‘god’, able to see all future possibilities in each life, and even if we could, who’s to say that those futures could be weighed & judged with any degree of objective certainty?
    At my age, I am second in priority (after front-line workers) for vaccination. But if there were a shortage of vaccines, would that be “fair”? Wouldn’t it be better to prioritize younger people who had more years to live & contribute to society? But that younger person may not be a giver, only a taker. Or drives recklessly and may have a fatal accident the day after he receives the vaccine, taking a family of four with him.
    Regardless of all the possibilities, it is not our right or responsibility to make those decisions. If there’s a shortage of resources, we can only define reasonable parameters for administration, and refuse to judge.
    And do everything possible to ensure there is no shortage of resources.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Leslie, thanks for sharing your thoughts and for introducing introducing the Lifeboat Conundrum.

    The lifeboat has become a powerful emblem of the plight of millions of refugees fleeing war zones, in which they have suffered terribly.

    It is heart breaking how they are exploited in their desperate search for safety in a new country, where they can rebuild their lives and contribute. For them, getting a place on a lifeboat is no guarantee they will be safe and able to live their lives, as you and I are free to do.

    If you have not read it, I thoroughly recommend The Girl from Aleppo by Christina Lamb. Nujeen Mustafa, teenager born cerebral palsy, describes her harrowing journey from Syria to Germany in a wheelchair. She is remarkable and has used her voice to help us all understand the importance of life to even the most vulnerable

    Avatarmlh says:

    Dear Phil, hard facts to deal with on every level. Agree with much that DB said below. There is no easy answer to this. As example, to say, uniformly, that yes, all lives are equal, is just not true. Conversely, to say that some lives mean less is also not true. As citizens in a civilized and predominantly Christian society, one would hope that all dependents would be looked after first ~ from the new born to the elderly. Yet, when available medicines or caretaking is beyond the capacity of the caregivers, critical decisions must be made in order to preserve and maintain the best possible care for others. Evaluating the best out-come for the greatest number of people would seem the most sensible answer, but, clearly, it can never take into account the love and life shared with another human being, regardless of circumstance. Speaking from experience though, sometimes it really is best to let a loved one go. ~ No vaccine here yet, though my 94 year old mum has had her first shot. ~ With warmest Easter Greetings, MLHolton

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Margaret, thanks for your balanced thoughts on this complex subject.
    Warmest Easter greeting to you too

    AvatarPam Birkett says:

    Philip, your article was so honest and in many ways heart-breaking. Everyone’s life is valid and each should have equal rights to life.

    I would hate to think of you, (or others who have some disability or disadvantage), to be valued less by others. There have been so many examples, over the years and across the world, of people who perhaps at some time in their lives others wanted to write off, yet instead they have been able to make a positive impact on the lives of their families, social circle or even worldwide. One such example that comes to mind is Nick Vujicic, who was born with no arms and no legs https://nickvujicic.com He is one amazing man who, like you, has not let his limitations stop him from inspiring others.

    Thank God you are using your powerful voice to speak up and envision others, especially the policy decision makers. Your articles give us a window into your thoughts and the frustrations and feelings of vulnerability you (and no doubt many others) face. You have such a valid & important voice and are serving a vital role by speaking up for the many thousands who would not know how to speak up.

    And yes, the link to the international musical collaboration of “I Can See Clearly Now” at the end definitely gives a fillip! I loved all the different voices singing in different languages and the different regional musicians. xx

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Pam, thanks for your encouraging and thoughtful reflections xx

    Though I cannot emulate Nick Vujicic, with his powerful voice and platform, I am happy to feel I may be of some value in speaking up

    AvatarChrissy says:

    Another wonderfully thought-provoking piece, Philip. I haven’t heard of the QALY formula but will learn more.
    I had an experience with this issue when my 69-year-old mother had cancer. Although she had been vibrant (never sick a day) throughout life, treatment was delayed by her age. In Canada, health care is “free,” but not readily available to all. She was in hospice when her turn for radiation came up, nine months later.
    Although everyone has value, in evaluating who is treated when, I’d personally welcome inclusion of a person’s productivity. Are they connected to others, do they better the world, will their loss cause hardship? The assumption here is an older person is less useful, which is absurd, as is the notion that someone wheelchair-bound is somehow less necessary to society.
    I’m grateful you share your experiences. When writing makes just one person explore what is and what should be, that’s a beautiful thing.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks Chrissy. It must have been hard for your mum, and you, having to wait her turn for radiation.

    Coping with life threatening and complex health conditions is a frightening reality for most of us in our lives.

    It is harder when healthcare is not available immediately. Immeasurably so, when there is no healthcare that can help.

    AvatarMea says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this and your poem, Philip. I always admire how much of yourself you put out into the world and share with others. I consider myself honoured to know you.

    I remember learning about The Trolley Dilemma in University, and I can honestly say I don’t think I would be able to make such a decision. All lives have value. Every one of us is valid.

    Both of my parents are elderly and have declining health. They’ve talked to me before about feeling useless at times because they cannot walk, or drive or take care of their grandchildren, and it always breaks my heart because each of them, my parents, my step-parents, and my in-laws are all loved and have value. My parents and in-laws have gotten their first vaccine shot, and I’m so glad that they did. My husband and I are under 40 and work from home, so we most likely won’t be receiving vaccinations anytime soon, and I’m ok with that. As much as I miss visiting with the people I love, I know that they need it more, and I would much rather know that they are safe, healthy and taken care of.

    Your words, as always, have touched me, and I’m grateful for that. I think I’m going to give my parents a call now.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Mea, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I understand how heart-breaking it is to hear parents talk about feeling useless. All the things they miss cannot be replaced.

    What remains is precious: The love they give and receive, memories they can share, their joy in seeing the grandchildren develop and start fulfilling their potential.

    When these are your memories, the cycle of life continues.

    In the meantime, keep calling and hugging while you can

    Hi! What a great article, thank you.
    In response to your four questions, my answers would be:
    1. Yes
    2. Angry, and very probably distraught
    3. Yes, I absolutely would
    4. I’m 60 with underlying health issues, so had my first vacc in February, and 2nd is due in May.
    As we used to say a hundred years ago, keep on keeping on.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Caron, thanks, much appreciated

    AvatarJonas says:

    Thank you, for these words. You have certainly impacted my world, from thousands of miles away.
    It is a thoughtful, and thought provoking, article, and another powerful poem.
    It also makes me think of our collective worth, in the face of all creation. If little things, like algae, krill, or bees, disappear, all other life on the planet would be negatively impacted, a lot of us would die. But if humans disappeared, it would likely benefit everyone but domestic dogs. (Until a huge space rock comes along and wipes them out, at which point, no one will ask, “I wonder if humans could have saved us?”)
    ✌️

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks for your thought provoking comments, Jonas

    Sadly, unless we change our damaging behaviour, humans will cause the loss of many vital ‘little things’.

    AvatarGeorge Ring (@ring7george ) says:

    An excellent article Philip, I agree and sympathise with your views on this. In a minor way I have experienced this trend to put a valuation on quality of life. At age 59 I damaged my back at work due to lack of training, poor moving and handling equipment and stupidity of our loading staff who placed 300kg in a cage intended for 35kg, 2okg bags of salt are small but heavy and you can get a lot in a cage! I was unable to work again, it finished my sex life and my active sporting life, I used to pay squash and run marathons not long before my accident. My solicitor advised me that if my employer had been private then damages would have been hundreds of thousands of pounds but as it was the NHS and the taxpayer pays pays I would be lucky to get £100,000 in the end I got £60,000 which did not even cover lost wages let alone pain and suffering, loss of amenities and of course lost pension. You may understand why I never clap for the NHS.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    George, I’m so sorry to hear about your life changing accident, which must have been devastating for you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I wish there was something I could do to help you, other than share the journey we find ourselves travelling.

    In my earlier article ‘How a bumblebee helped me in lockdown’ I set out the ten truths which sustain me. I hope you will find these helpful https://www.independentliving.co.uk/philip-anderson/bumblebee-in-lockdown/

    Yikes, difficult one, Philip! It’s such a slippery slope, weighing the lives of some against others — the many vs the few. I don’t envy the people having to make these decisions, because they’ll make both the “right” and “wrong” decision, whatever they decide…

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    It is Eaton!
    I hope this piece will raise awareness of the dilemma, and encourage open debate.

    AvatarDB Carter says:

    Thank you for writing this, Philip. It’s a heart breaking insight into the worries faced by those with severe medical conditions, especially in the face of this pandemic. Of course, all lives are of equal value and that view makes sense beyond the grounds of civilised compassion – after all, who’s to say someone with a chronic life-threatening condition isn’t also the developer of a covid vaccine or inventor of a medical breakthrough? That said, I do appreciate the government has a delicate balancing act and I don’t envy them having to make their decisions (even if I’d have made different ones).

    In the past, I’ve seen how older people approaching “end of life” (though who can truly say?) have been treated, and it has broken my heart. We need a whole review and public discussion of the matter, because each and every one of us will probably be in that position at some point.

    For myself, I am lucky enough to be over 50 and have received my first vaccination. I hope it means we can successfully reopen aspects of society, but never at the expense of the safety and wellbeing of people in your position, Philip.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thank YOU, DB, for your well considered thoughts.

    I love your observation ‘who’s to say someone with a chronic life-threatening condition isn’t also the developer of a Covid vaccine or inventor of a medical breakthrough?’

    You are right, during the pandemic, the government and medical profession are having to make tough decisions.

    There are many examples of how the value of lives are not equally valued, and not just the lives of the elderly and those with disability.

    I hope my article, in some small way, stimulates debate, if only for those who read it.

    AvatarAndrew says:

    Do you think everyone should have the same right to life?

    Yes. There is one exception to this and that is the very lowest in society that commit the most sickening of crimes.

    How would you feel if your loved ones, or others close to you, were considered of little use and valued less by others?

    The “Storm Inside” would be raging.

    Would you be happy to put the disadvantaged before you in receiving treatment or the vaccine?

    Without question or hesitation.

    Where are you in the vaccination priority order?

    I’ve no idea what number group I belong to but I’ve had my first one if that helps you decide.

    Absolutely wonderful article Philip as usual. Really appreciate you writing this. You’re on a mission.

    AvatarPhilip Anderson says:

    Thanks for your responses, Andrew

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