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The Abuse of People With Cerebral Palsy Needs to Stop

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A few years ago, I saw an increase in news stories featuring children and adults who have cerebral palsy being horribly abused or their rights being limited. Finding the right words to portray how I feel about these issues isn’t easy for me, but abuse needs to be addressed and we need to seriously work toward finding a better solution. People who abuse or take advantage of people with disabilities have some serious issues that should not ever be ignored.

Let’s start with Alex Scott from Virginia, who was 45 at the time this story took place. He has non-verbal cerebral palsy, and he takes time to eat his food. The group home where he has lived for over 20 years was denying him access to live there anymore until he had a feeding tube installed, according to the Washington Post. His family and the medical team don’t believe Scott needs a feeding tube, but instead simply patience in feeding him. Scott was in the hospital for over a month because he didn’t have any place to go.

Having a feeding tube installed is a surgery that includes risks, discomfort and recovery. But most importantly, Scott enjoys food and eating. Once a feeding tube is in place, eating orally is no longer an option. Also, this surgery isn’t necessary. As a person who has severe cerebral palsy and takes longer to eat, this situation is scary to me. Nobody with a disability should be forced into a non-medical surgery just to make a caregiver’s job easier. This is a human rights violation.

Unfortunately, I also read a horrific case of a father who murdered his 4-year-old daughter who had cerebral palsy. Her murder happened in 2015, and he pled guilty to her murder in 2017. Her death is obviously very upsetting and tragic. Four-year-olds can’t defend themselves to begin with, but having cerebral palsy on top of that makes the situation even more disgraceful — that anyone could harm her, let alone kill her. But the most frustrating part, in my opinion, is that the father had already been investigated for abuse. So, my question is: how was he ever allowed to be alone with his daughter in the first place? I would think one incident of abuse would prevent anyone from being alone with any child.

There have been several different cases of abuse and extreme neglect of children and adults who have disabilities, including cerebral palsy. I believe society has a way of honoring those who care for people who have disabilities. Sometimes, without realizing it, it can devalue the person living with a disability. If abuse happens, society somehow tries to justify that the caregiver or parent was under stress or felt hopeless. However, feeling stressed or hopeless doesn’t give anyone a right to hurt, abuse or kill someone.

Society needs to take the attitude of the “hero” caregiver or parent and focus on the unit as a team. The child or adult who has the disability is an individual with the same feelings, intellect and rights to safety as anyone else. They need advocacy. If abuse is suspected or documented, then it’s time to help and not wait until someone dies. Punishment for abuse or murder doesn’t need to be less because the victim has a disability. Value of human life needs to be put back in its rightful place.

If you suspect abuse, please do something to help. Don’t look the other way or try to forget. This is about someone’s life, and they deserve a safe environment to live.

A version of this article was originally posted on Cerebral Palsy News Today.

Getty Images photo via Halfpoint

Originally published: March 12, 2019
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