After extensive criticism was piled on the government last year, leading to an urgent investigation by the care watchdog, people with learning disabilities are still being given inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices if they are ill with Covid-19. This has caused thousands of avoidable deaths.
People with learning disabilities are being given DNACPRs despite the fact that they may be well enough to benefit from CPR. This policy shows that eugenics is still thriving today under neoliberalism, having never been eradicated since Nazi Germany, as common belief suggests.
Amidst this news is the growing concern that people with learning disabilities have not been prioritised for the vaccinations despite evidence suggesting that people with a mild disability are more likely to die from coronavirus. For example, people with learning disabilities aged 18 to 34 are 30 times more likely to die of coronavirus than others the same age. NHS figures show that since the third lockdown began, 65% of deaths of people with learning disabilities are due to Covid-19 whereas ONS figures show that the rate for the general population is 39%. This stark comparison highlights how the government sees disabled people as expendable and are unwilling to protect the most vulnerable, despite their promises.
This should not come as a surprise. Regardless of the pandemic, people with learning disabilities on average die 20 years younger than the general population. The social murder of people with learning disabilities is a reality under Tory austerity when 17,000 people died waiting for their disability benefit in the last ten years. The majority of people with a learning disability live in poverty as a result of the erosion of the welfare state, and with Covid-19 impacting the poorest in society the most, disabled people have been cast aside by the government. Reopening the economy for peoples’ mental health is a mockery of the realities that disabled people have to face when they live in fear for their health and safety.
Health services already offer poor care for this group due to communication difficulties and healthcare professionals often ignore patients’ and carers’ concerns. Universal healthcare is a problem for the ruling class because much of it is unproductive labour (no profit to be made) so now healthcare is becoming a market, making it increasingly harder for people with learning disabilities to navigate. With the privatisation of care facilities, people with mild learning disabilities are barely offered support with washing and feeding themselves. Alongside this, care workers are being forced to work in poor conditions for low pay, face a lack of PPE and too large of a workload to be safe. The pandemic has amplified these dangers to people’s lives with 6 in 10 deaths of coronavirus being people with a disability last week.
If we look at Boris Johnson’s previous statements regarding herd immunity, it’s clear that it is eugenicist reasoning that is pushing DNACPRs onto people with learning disabilities. Eugenicists believe that “inferior” members of society would not have survived in nature and therefore they’re not meant to survive in a competitive society. People’s bodies and minds are valued according to their ability to act like machines under capitalism because profit is above all else. People with learning disabilities cannot produce commodities in the average amount of socially necessary labour time, thus the capitalist can’t make as much profit from them. This means that capitalists often won’t employ disabled people. Therefore, the government views mentally impaired people as not worthy enough of life and has used DNACPRs and austerity as a way to eradicate the “burden” of disabled people.
The government, during the pandemic, has justified the elimination of people with learning disabilities by saying it’s necessary if the population wants to return to normalcy. Nazi ideology considered disabled people to not be worthy of life and it is this very thought that allows the government to ruthlessly sacrifice disabled people. The government adopted the Nothing About Us Without Us message but their policies demonstrate their continued oppression of disabled people.