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The weak and vulnerable need the “conscience” protection provided by adherence to the sanctity/equality of life ethic. Without extra devotion to this vital principle, those least able to defend themselves can become victimized by behavior that flows from a belief that their lives and well being matter less.

To me, this explains why some of those who are charged with the crucial duty of caring for the elderly are instead subjecting them to terrible abuse in hospitals and care homes throughout the UK (and, of course, elsewhere). From the awful story in the Guardian:

The study by the joint committee on human rights warns that many older people are facing maltreatment ranging from physical neglect so severe they are left lying in their own faeces or urine to malnutrition and dehydration through lack of help with eating.

Lack of dignity, especially for personal care needs, inappropriate medication designed more to subdue patients than treat them, and over-hasty discharge from hospital are also causing suffering for many older people, the MPs and peers conclude...

The committee says that “an entire culture change” is needed to ensure that patients and staff who work with them are aware of their basic human rights. While there have been some recent signs of progress in policy and guidance, the rhetoric has not translated into practice on the ground, the report concludes.

Yes. The answer is to respect human rights. Human rights flow from acceptance of human exceptionalism, that is, acceptance of the principle that each and every one of us matters simply and merely because we are human, not based on individual capacities or life’s quality. Lose sight of that vision and you lose sight of universal human rights. Lose site of human rights and abuse follows like water flowing down hill.

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