A few years ago, my creeping moral unease with major pharmacy chains was galvanized by reading about “pharmacy deserts“, which occur when chains squeeze out and then buy out independent pharmacies only to shut them down, forcing customers to travel burdensome distances to pick up prescriptions – with potentially disastrous effect if people can’t get there by closing time.
I was reminded of this on learning of a similar situation happening with a pain management facility, essential to many patients, with devastating consequences for a friend of mine. I wish I knew the name of the company that’s reportedly buying and closing that facility, because such callous disregard for human life and dignity deserves to be outed.
Such actions are rooted in what I’ve referred to in recent conversation as the bullshit idea that someone’s life can be worth less than someone’s profit. I hardly ever use that kind of language, but it seemed in that moment that no other word would do. On further reflection, though, I thought of another one: demonic. I mean this theologically and in all seriousness: it is a lie straight from the pit of hell.
In cases of needed long-term medical care, this lie is often driven by a toxic brew of profit motive and ableism. Among the various forms of discrimination and prejudice, ableism perhaps remains one of the more broadly accepted because its lies have taken root across the political spectrum. Even in its most charitable interpretation as seeking to reduce suffering, the left’s embrace of euthanasia – or assisted suicide, or Medical Aid in Dying (which in actual fact is being applied in Canada under that name to people who are not dying, for treatable non-terminal conditions including depression and even poverty), or whatever the euphemism du jour for killing the elderly and disabled – rests on the premise that a condition that creates dependence on others is a fate worse than death. This same premise is perpetuated by demeaning language from the right, portraying people who need long-term treatment as being a “drain” or “burden”, measuring human value in coldly monetary terms.
There is both anecdotal and statistical evidence suggesting that internalization of this language (whatever the political persuasion of those who speak it) often increases the risk of suicide. Whether the message people hear is that disabled people themselves are better off dead or that society is better off without them, it’s ultimately pointless to argue about which is more insidious: both are variations on the same damn lie.
I condemn actions and ideas, not people, because I believe in conscience and moral agency. There is always a choice. So to anyone who has spread demeaning or paternalistic ideas that downplay the worth of those with disabilities, and most especially to anyone responsible for decisions that increase corporate profits at the cost of endangering people’s lives, I address an Oscar Romero-inspired appeal: for the love of God (seriously – such decisions at the hands of those professing to be people of faith are all the more morally reprehensible), stop before you actually KILL someone!