by Herb Geraghty
Earlier this month Michael Hickson, a disabled black man, was killed in a Texas hospital when his doctors decided that his life was not worth living. Hickson was a husband and a father to five children who became quadriplegic in 2017 after a cardiac arrest incident that occurred while driving. People with disabilities often report experiencing discrimination from medical providers and institutions. In many cases, this discrimination can be lethal.
In a chilling audio clip you can hear a doctor attempt to rationalize the choice to deprive Hickson of hydration, nutrition, and medical care.
“So as of right now, his quality of life — he doesn’t have much of one,” the doctor claimed.
Hickson’s wife Melissa responded,“What do you mean? Because he’s paralyzed with a brain injury, he doesn’t have quality of life?”
“Correct,” he replied.
The doctor admits outright that he has decided that the patient’s quality of life is so poor that he should not receive fundamental care. According to the Center for Disability Rights, physicians often underate quality of life compared to what is reported by people with disabilities themselves. In this case, that judgement was deadly. This should be seen as a shocking indictment of the entire medical system.
As the video goes on the doctor says, “at this point, we are going to do what we feel is best for him along with the state and this is what we decided.”
Melissa goes on to beg him to reconsider, to take his family’s wishes into account, but he responds, “this is the decision between the medical community and the state.” The rights and interests of the Hickson family were not considered.
Melissa later told Texas Right to Life, “I lost my best friend, my better half, the other half of my heart. I was stripped of my rights as a wife, and left helplessly watching my husband be executed. I now have no husband, a widow at 47. My children left with no father to celebrate Father’s Day. All taken away from us. I have no other words to express how I feel today except hurt, angry, and frustrated.”
Michael Hickson and his family are the latest victims of a culture that systemically devalues the lives of people with disabilities. Many people conspired to deprive a man of basic water and nutrition because they believed that his life did not matter. They were wrong.
Micheal Hickson’s life mattered.
[If you would like to listen to some first-hand accounts of disability in the medical field, I recommend watching the Ableism in Medicine panel from the 2018 Rehumanize Conference available on Youtube.]