‘The case against Singer’ – Peter and the Paralympics

The Olympics are over but another international sporting competition, less spoken about, has begun in earnest. The Olympics showcased and celebrated human excellence, hard work and ingenuity. It demonstrated to the whole world what we human beings are capable of, and we are capable of some truly awesome things. The human spirit is a wonderful thing. And all of this is going to be showcased again over the next week and a half in the Paralympics where disabled athletes will be given their turn to shine.

Unfortunately there are some people in the world who believe such people’s lives are not worth living simply by virtue of their disability. They believe such lives involve too much “suffering” and that from a “compassionate” standpoint we ought to put them out of their misery. They believe babies born with a disability should be murdered should their parents choose it. One of them is a bloke called Peter Singer who holds a lot of sway over the academic establishment, a very frightening thing indeed.

As Editor of the ABC’s Ramp Up disability website and someone who “suffers” from a disability herself, Stella Young knows about Singer’s deeply controversial viewpoints such as support for the infanticide of disabled babies. Stella in response, not surprising and quite rightly, has slammed him for it.

‘[Singer]… believes that parents should be given the choice to have their disabled babies killed after they are born. His argument is not about the right to terminate pregnancy based on the presence of a disabled foetus, although he does believe this as well, but the active killing of babies born with particular disabilities.’

Young continued, noting that:

‘Singer is, of course, not the only person to assume that disabled people “suffer”, that our lives are inherently “worse” than those of non-disabled people. But as someone who lives this life, I know without a shadow of a doubt that his is a misinformed view based on prejudice. I won’t pretend that my life has been all beer and skittles… Still, I don’t believe that my life has involved “suffering”, a term Singer uses a lot to describe lives like mine.’

Stella, who has a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) which has impacted on her growth and bone strength, also personalises the issue.

‘Philosopher Peter Singer believes in the active killing of babies born with particular disabilities. I was once one of these babies.’ There is no reason why disabled persons like Stella cannot live lives that are just as fulfilling and comfortable if not more fulfilling and comfortable than non-disabled people. The best examples of this is not only Stella herself but the paralympians who have shown and are showing what they are capable of and how full and dignified their lives truly are.

People like Peter Singer ought to have a chat with these paralympians and with other disabled persons as well as their families and friends instead of relying on stereotypes and their own arrogant prejudices when forming an opinion about people who have disabilities. And Peter Singer ought to know that every human being has a right to life and society has no right to take that life away from them. And he ought to know that a society’s goodness is judged ultimately by how it treats its most defenceless and vulnerable members. Singer might think he’s engaging in a purely, cerebral intellectual exercise, but these are real people. It’s about time that the eminent professor came down from his ivory tower of destructive utilitarianism and realised that ideas have consequences; for people like Stella Young, this is personal.

I encourage you to read Stella’s full article.

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