Putting a price on life

20 Apr

Sometimes you really have to wonder exactly what the motivations and priorities are of people who work for disability charities. For example, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities recently commissioned a study that showed that:

The findings, detailed in the Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK report, reveals that children with autism cost £2.7 billion a year, yet for adults the figure is £25 billion – more than eight times as much.

Funded by the Shirley Foundation and led by Professor Martin Knapp at the London School of Economics and King’s College London, the research shows that for adults with autism the highest costs are those generated by health and social care provision (59%), followed by lost employment (36%) and family expenses (5%).

Now, the reason this study was commissioned was apparently to show how;

…[the figures] give serious weight to the argument that more resources are needed to intervene early and effectively in the lives of those who are affected by the condition. Early intervention would help individuals with autism and their families experience a better quality of life and reduce the high costs incurred in later years…

Well, maybe.

To me they smack far too uncomfortably of putting a price – a cost – on a persons life. I wrote about this three years ago and I invoked the spectre of the Nazis. My friend Dinah Murray commented on Mike Stantons blog:

[A] philosopher told me about a Nazi propaganda film he’d seen, called ‘Freedom through Death’. It featured golden haired youths clad in white, wheeling drooling [non]persons around in wheelchairs while the audience was asked to consider how much labour was being wasted on keeping the droolers alive.

Yes, it smacks far too uncomfortably of that. That it was commissioned by the Foundation *for* People with Learning Disabilities makes it all the more disturbing.

And lets not beat around the bush here, when you put a financial cost on a life you are explicitly enslaving that person. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 4 states:

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

In *all* their forms.

And when you enslave someone you cheapen the worth of their life. That individual is referred to as ‘slave’ not ‘person’. The irony here being that the reader of _this_ story is invited to think about how unnecessarily expensive the life of an autistic person is. The ends do *not* justify the means.

12 Responses to “Putting a price on life”

  1. lisa450 April 20, 2009 at 20:25 #

    The financial issue seems a little… off to me, too. It certainly would cost less to educate us properly than to pay for long-term treatment and institutionalization; but that really doesn’t seem like it ought to be the big issue here! I don’t see a lot of this reasoning for things like Parkinson’s research or cancer research, though both those things also cost huge amounts of money. It’s like saying, “It’s good to take someone to the hospital after he’s hit by a car because it clears the road for other drivers.” Well, yes, technically; but isn’t that an awfully trivial reason?

  2. fw2stuff April 20, 2009 at 20:55 #


    Since when is an education and learning independant living skills – Nazism??

    I find it ironic that those with LD’s, mental health issues, and Downs Syndrom are out in society learning to fit in and work.

    Autistics… want to be treated as “special”. That they shouldn’t have to go to school, work and live independantly. Well… my kids are learning that it what is expected of them. The eldest will be independant… the little one probably not… but they both are learning the 3R’s and independant living skills.

    I think I’ll go back to fighting for those rights for my child. Not the right that autistics seem to want them to have…. To be completely dependant on someone else.


  3. Joseph April 20, 2009 at 21:40 #

    While such estimates could be fact-based (though the ones I’ve read contain errors and omissions) I don’t think they are ethical.

    Has anyone ever come up with an estimate of how much women cost the economy?

    Women earn less than men. Some women are house wives and don’t have regular employment, in some countries more than others. It would be trivial to ask the question: What if all women were men? What would it mean in terms of dollars and cents?

    (Of course, I’m not being serious. Examples like that are sometimes necessary to illustrate discrimination in terms that most people understand.)

  4. me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn April 20, 2009 at 21:46 #

    What does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say about terminating pregnancies should the fetus have autism genes should autism genes ever be found i.e. compared to Down`s syndrome screening.It must be an anticipated discovery and will not be too dissimilar to eugenics.
    It seems sensible to cost the care of someone with autism. Each patient will require $ 3,000,000 worth of care in their lifetime.
    The U.S.A. spends $ 35,000,000,000 on care for A.D. per year. Novel treatments will increase the expenditure further.
    As one mother said of the cost of her son`s care:
    “We keep on sending Daniel to Harvard every year for the rest of his life”

  5. Kev April 20, 2009 at 22:05 #

    Since when is an education and learning independant living skills – Nazism??

    Since when did anyone say they were?

  6. joeyandymom April 21, 2009 at 00:22 #

    Ignorance and dependence is always more expensive than education and independence. We didn’t need a study to tell us that.

    What we may need a study for is to prove to those with the purse strings that ignorance and dependence is always more expensive than education and independence. If you want special education funded, there are ignorant people who need the numbers in front o them to say, “Oh. Right. Maybe we should fund these supports.” Yes, that is sad.

    So I’d like to see why this study is not a study to present to ignorant board members in order to get appropriate funding for educational and support programs, and is instead something against services for adults, or intended to somehow hang a price tag upon their lives? (And I’m sure you have this implication somewhere, or you wouldn’t be posting this.)

  7. david.andrews.ed.psych April 21, 2009 at 00:38 #

    fw2: “Not the right that autistics seem to want them to have…. To be completely dependant on someone else.”

    straw man. stop doing that. you make yourself look ridiculous.

    “Autistics… want to be treated as “special”. That they shouldn’t have to go to school, work and live independantly.”

    i don’t think I’ve seen a single autistic person say that, or even hint at it! you love your stupid lies, don’t you?

  8. Madeline Mcewen-Asker April 21, 2009 at 00:54 #

    It seems useful to know current costs as a means of planning for the future, but I’d be interested to know how they arrived at those figures?

    Also I would be more interesting to find out whether if more money is spent whilst children are young then how much might potentially be saved in the future.

    However, that said there will always be people and families who need greater care and there is no question in my mind that it is our collective responsibility to help them, autistic or otherwise.
    Best wishes

  9. kyngdingxx April 21, 2009 at 04:25 #

    I don’t like this backlash at the discussion of facts about economic consequences of a condition. Circumstances such as these shouldn’t be ignored. It’s not acceptable to condemn the information when it is discussed in regards to the need for effective early intervention to abate this dire economic situation.

  10. dealingwiththeday April 21, 2009 at 17:04 #

    I always get an uneasy feeling when people start to count the cost of any disability because there will always be someone of the opinion that it is too much. It goes without saying that better educational provision for children with autism is the way forward, but this should also extend into adulthood, we never stop learning, regardless of the presence of autism. As our children grow up and try to find their place in the world it is obvious that some will need more help than others. To put a price on the life of anyone is questionable, to put a price on the lives of the vulnerable is close to obscene. In one way or another, as parents we forfeit parts of our lives for our children willingly, regardless of success or failure on the child’s behalf, it will be a sad day when society deems some of its members to expensive. My apologies if I have offended anyone, this is a personal response to an excellent post.

  11. Kev April 21, 2009 at 19:03 #

    No offence here. I totally agree.

  12. me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn April 21, 2009 at 22:43 #

    “it will be a sad day when society deems some of its members to expensive.”
    Unfotunately you are probably out of touch with UK government policy. The whole reason for ultra-sound ante-natal screening in the UK is to detect and abort Down`s syndrome fetuses because of the cost of caring for Down`s syndrome in the community.That is the brutal truth of the matter coming from a Consultant in Fetal Medicine. The discovery of other fetal abnormalities is secondary.

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