Professor Peter Singer, Princeton’s controversial utilitarian philosopher, teaches that humans with disabilities have less intrinsic worth in many cases than healthy animals, and that we ought to be able to kill them, to relieve their suffering and for the greater good.
Likewise, money spent on care for a disabled person would be more ethically used to feed a larger number of the poor and hungry. However, in a remarkable 1999 interview in the New Yorker, it came out that he and his sister were spending tens of thousands of dollars per year for a team of home aides to care for their mother, who was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s and recognized no one.
When asked why, seeing that "His is a world that makes no provision for private aides to look after addled, dying old women," Singer answered, "because it is different when it's your mother."
This popped into my mind recently because of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Matilda’s Law, named for his mother, which I wrote about favorably in March.
At the time, I praised the governor for saying the right things and asking for sacrifices from the strong for the protection of the vulnerable.
I was wrong.
As has become more and disturbingly clear, while Cuomo eloquently talks the talk, his actions have left unprotected thousands of other people’s vulnerable mothers and fathers—along with their devoted caregivers.
For reasons we New Yorkers do not understand, while new, emergency hospitals were made available or being built — the Jacob Javits Center, the USNS Comfort, an expensive new field hospital at Stonybrook — the most vulnerable population, the elderly, were sent to their deaths, over and over again.
As reported by NBC, on March 25 New York became the first state "to issue a blanket rule prohibiting nursing homes from denying admission or readmission to residents because they are infected with COVID-19, and banned the facilities from testing patients for the disease before they are admitted." (The link to that state mandate, incidentally, has now been removed).
Nursing homes were told they needed to have all the necessary PPE equipment and to be able to quarantine these patients . . . but if they weren’t prepared?
To make matters worse, while Cuomo would talk in each press conference about the grief over the daily Covid-19 deaths, he arrogantly refused to take any responsibility for the nursing home horrors, saying several times "it’s not our job" to make sure nursing homes have PPE. Whereas, previously, regarding shutting down NY businesses, he proclaimed: "If someone wants to blame someone, blame me. There is no one else responsible for this decision."
Meanwhile, city hospitals became overwhelmed while the new facilities remained almost empty. A Brooklyn nursing home, seeing the danger, begged to send hospitalized patients on to the USNS Comfort instead of taking them back, and they were refused.
Asked about this, Cuomo answered, "The Comfort is a federal facility. It doesn’t take transfers from nursing homes," deftly ignoring the actual question which was: why couldn’t the Comfort take COVID seniors from the overcrowded hospitals?
Sure, there is always red tape, as well as jockeying between state and federal authorities.
But the governor has demonstrated great ability to cut through red tape when he wants to — judging by the hundreds of executive orders he has issued to implement his directives.
Why couldn’t he and President Trump declare the USNS Comfort a facility for recovering seniors? Surely that is in the purpose of Matilda’s Law — protecting those over 70 and those with underlying conditions?
Hardly mentioned is how hard the virus is hitting the state’s group homes for the handicapped and developmentally disabled, who have also unsuccessfully begged the state for help. These are the people, as Pope Francis would say, at the margins of society, and for all the press conference talk, their lives and deaths are counted as statistics, not as awful and possibly avoidable tragedies.
It’s "different when it’s your mother."
Yes, it’s different for all of us when the person threatened is dear to us. But Matilda’s Law was supposed to protect NY’s most vulnerable. It has failed, miserably.
Maria McFadden Maffucci is the editor in chief of the Human Life Review (www.humanlifereview.com), a quarterly journal devoted to the defense of human life, founded in 1974 by her father, James P. McFadden, Associate Publisher of National Review. She is President of the Human Life Foundation, based in midtown Manhattan, which publishes the Review and supports pregnancy resource centers. Mrs. Maffucci’s articles and editorials have appeared in the Human Life Review, First Things, National Review Online, National Review, Verily. A Holy Cross graduate with a BA in Philosophy, she is married to Robert E. Maffucci, and the mother of three children. Her interests include exploring opportunities for individuals with special needs. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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