BY PATRICIA MOWBRAY
Have you noticed that we are using the words “choice” and “best” more often?
We have many “choices” in consumer goods and services in Australia. In most cases, goods and services offered are of good quality and value for money. However, we are encouraged to make the “best” choices for ourselves, for our family, our local community and for our country.
Advertisers try to convince us that their product or service is the “best choice” for us. With the great variety of products and services available, consumer advocacy services encourage us to “do our homework” before we buy or commit to a service. We are warned on a daily basis to investigate claims made by products and services to ensure we are not “ripped off” or, if in fact, we really need the particular product or service.
So, I really wasn’t surprised that these same words, “choice” and “best” were used in a discussion on Designer Babies screened onInsight on SBS last month. The words “choice” and “best” were thrown around as if human life was some sort of consumer good or service.
Remarks like parents should have a right to pick and choose the quality of their child mystified me. Using the word choice seemed to imply some sort of control. Choices are neither liberating nor good when options are limited or ill-informed.
Choice depends on all the options being presented and considered. Even the options we are presented with, many of which are no good or discriminatory, do not give us ‘real’ choice.
We need to evaluate the choice against our values, which should be life affirming and accepting of difference in people's physical and mental abilities, accepting all have human dignity.
How can parents be given a choice when all the information about certain techniques in the selection of embryos is not forthcoming? How can parents make an informed choice about disability and illness when disability and illness are perceived as a burden, a costly experience to society and labelled with that strong and emotive word suffering? Should we be considering such choices at all?
The comment about choosing the “best” embryo raised my hackles somewhat. What exactly does “best” mean? I wondered if the program was talking about human life or the latest and “best” mobile phone or car. I wondered what would happen to those “best” embryos who didn’t reach the expectations of their parents.
Will we see a rise in wrongful birth cases because a child did not reach its diagnosed greatness and potential? Will IVF clinics need to provide guarantees for their work?
Is human life becoming just another consumer good where we make uninformed or emotive choices based on society’s view of disability and illness? Where is the information and research about these new techniques? Is this information freely available and accessible to families faced with these ‘choices’?
Human life is unpredictable and diverse. Disability and illness are very much part of the human experience. As infants we were all dependant on the care of those who loved us and all of us, without exception, will experience suffering at some time.
The type of choices we are presented with regarding disability and abortion are reductive choices, eliminating or making people fit into a narrow definition of our community, rather than making our community fit the people. Our call is how we respond as a community of followers of Jesus Christ. Our choices will reflect our values.
We are all called, gifted and challenged by our baptismal promises to be a loving and supportive community. Imagine our communities if people with disability were supported to nurture “real” friendships, offered “real” work opportunities and given a voice in choices of participation in our community.
But, we can do more than just re-imagine our communities we can make choices and take action. It is time to truly proclaim that we are all made in God’s image and we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
Patricia Mowbray is disability consultant to the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life.
Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.