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In my opinion: Words were crass but he was entitled to raise the issue

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 14, 2013

By Martin Bell

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Defending Cornwall Council Independent councillor Colin Brewer who represented Wadebridge East and who I have known for many years since he started attending our parish council meetings, is a tricky job right now. Colin apologised for his choice of language at a disability awareness event in Truro and the demands for his resignation were, in my opinion, unwarranted.

The fact is that UK clinicians are continually debating the very issue that Colin touched on, the ethics of using medical science to prolong the lives of infants born with very severe, life threatening disabilities. It's just that the general public either don't know this is happening or would rather not think about what is a very difficult ethical issue. Some people can't avoid it because there are consequences of raising children who will never be able to support themselves. I know a number who have raised Downs Syndrome children who have gone on to adult life with a reasonable quality of life, but we shouldn't kid ourselves it is easy for the parents.

Then there are young people who suffer from muscular wasting or paralysis but with the prospect of rapid advances in stem cell research, that could treat them in the next few years, how do you choose to let nature take its course?

In other words the ethical issue is a Grade A stinker but it's not helped by hardline disability activists who won't compromise, who won't accept that there are some infants who are so disabled at birth that if nature was allowed to take its course they would inevitably die. Except medicine intervenes and they don't, but at a huge cost. The militant disability rights lobby should ask themselves, when the equivalent of two wards in Treliske hospital are bed-blocked by elderly patients who need 24 hour care in nursing homes, and acute patients are having their operations cancelled because Cornwall Council doesn't have the money to move the old folk out, how much money should the authorities be required to spend prolonging the existence of someone who will have barely any quality of life? When things are that dire, how do you decide whether to prolong the life of a severely disabled infant whose long term care needs will be so specialised and expensive they can't be looked after in Cornwall. That was the question Colin addressed, he was entitled to do so but his choice of words was crass.

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