In the last few weeks, I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories about children and adults with cerebral palsy being horribly abused or having their rights taken away. Finding the right words to portray how I feel about these issues isn’t easy for me, but we must address this problem. People who abuse or take advantage of people with disabilities have serious issues that should not be ignored.
Let’s start with Alex Scott, a 45-year-old Virginia man with non-verbal severe cerebral palsy who takes a little longer to eat his food. The group home where he’s lived for 20 years has threatened to evict Scott unless a feeding tube is inserted, according to the Washington Post. His family and medical team don’t think Scott needs a feeding tube, but that feeding him requires patience. Scott has been in a local hospital because he doesn’t have any place else to go.
Having a feeding tube surgically installed entails risk, discomfort and recovery. But most importantly, Scott enjoys food and eating. Once a feeding tube is in place, eating orally will no longer be an option. In addition, this surgery is unnecessary. As a person who has severe cerebral palsy and takes longer to eat, this situation is very scary to me. I don’t think anyone with a disability should be forced into non-medical surgery just to make a caregiver’s job easier. This is a violation of human rights.
I also just read a horrific case of a father who in 2015 killed his 4-year-old daughter who had cerebral palsy. He just pleaded guilty to her murder. Four-year-olds can’t defend themselves to begin with, but having cerebral palsy on top of that makes her death even more disgraceful. But what is particularly tragic is the fact that her father had already been investigated and was a known abuser. Why was he ever allowed to be alone with his daughter in the first place? Even one incident of abuse should be enough to prevent anyone from being alone with any child.
Yet society has a way of honoring those who care for people with disabilities, and sometimes when abuse happens, society tries to justify it with the excuse that the caregiver or parent was under stress, or felt hopeless. Even so, that doesn’t give anyone a right to hurt, abuse or kill anyone else.
Society needs to change its attitude toward the “hero” caregiver or parent, and focus on the unit as a team. A disabled child or adult is still an individual with feelings, intellect and just as much right to safety as anyone else. Punishment for abuse or murder shouldn’t be less because the victim had a disability. The value of human life must be put back in its rightful place.
If you suspect abuse, please don’t look the other way or try to forget, or wait until someone dies. This is about somebody’s life.