Looking In and Looking Out

By Andy Berry

One of the ongoing issues in the disability world is whether you can measure an individual's "quality of life".

This issue is of crucial importance for people with disabilities and it may, I suspect, grow even more important as the euthanasia lobby tries to push its agenda forward.

First, a bold statement:

Nothing I have ever heard or read suggests that it is remotely possible for anyone to assess anyone else's quality of life.

To me, 'quality of life' has only one significant meaning that is summed up by the sentence: "X's quality of life is so low that they'd be better off dead". Now, I since I reject the possibility of assessing quality of life, I reject this as well.

My bold statement says "anyone" and that's just what I mean - judges, juries, professionals, focus groups, religious people - anyone! And, yes, "anyone" does include doctors. Their job is to care for people, not kill them.

So, why this article's title?

Well, I've been reading some biographies and autobiographies. The difference is staggering! In the autobiographies, I've found myself saying "yes, I can identify with this or that". In the biographies I am continually finding myself wanting to scream "how do you know what it feels like?"

So, looking into someone life is completely different from living it and looking out.

Now, let's see where assessing quality of life fits in…

Another bold statement:

If a biographer, who spends many weeks talking to their subject, can't begin to understand what another person's life feels like, what hope do 'professionals' have who are expected to do the same thing to many people in the space of a few hours?

And another:

There's a terrifying analogy between trying to assess the quality of life of someone without communication (or of somebody with whom you can't be bothered to learn to communicate, more likely) and trying to write a biography of a dead person. How can you even begin to understand how they feel without asking them?

You may say that this is all about feeling, but how about objective measurements? OK, tell me what you're going to measure. More significantly, tell me how you are going to measure these factors without imposing your own value system. For example, a football playing doctor may regard it is a significant problem not being able to run 100 metres. To me, not being able to this is something I don't think about often. Even when I do, it's no more than one of life's little annoyances - like not being able to play the violin.

Tell me I'm wrong, show me an agreed way of measuring a person's quality of life and at an agreed set of value-free standards. Agreed, that is, by everyone in society.

But, until then, let me live, please!

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Any Comments?

I'm really keen to hear what you think of this.  Please email any comments to: andy@tof.co.uk