Like many people I was more than a little surprised when I heard about former Ukip candidate Geoffrey Clark and the 'personal manifesto' he placed on his website. His manifesto for reviewing the UK's National Health Service (NHS) sounded so hat-stand crazy I couldn't resist having a look at the proposals.
I quickly came to the conclusion it was the most intellectually vacuous statement I had ever read. Or at least that's what I thought until the US National Rifle Association claimed that armed guards should be placed in schools but, hey, that's an entirely different blog for someone else to write.
To be fair to Clark, who was standing for a seat on Kent County Council, he was only calling for a "review" of his ideas. He wasn't suggesting they be adopted as policies. His review, however, included the following proposal; "compulsory abortion when the foetus is detected as having Downs, Spina Bifida or similar syndrome which, if it is born, could render the child a burden on the state as well as on the family."
This really is the strangest of ideas and was clearly drafted on the back of a cheap, used envelope. Apart from anything else, it suggests that every pregnant woman would be required to have an amniocentesis test, an invasive medical procedure that has a 1 in 100 chance of ending in miscarriage. Pity the parents of any baby that returns a positive test.
Where do you draw the line as to what constitutes a "similar syndrome"? The muscle wasting condition muscular dystrophy can have both a major impact on an individual's life and their life expectancy. Conversely, however, there have been rare cases where the muscular dystrophy was so mild the individual was in their sixties before discovering they had it.
I struggle to see how Clark's proposals would distinguish between a foetus showing signs of severe muscular dystrophy, where the individual would need support throughout their life and the child with the mildest form of the condition. Before I get misunderstood and get in trouble, it's important to stress that Clark is wishing to create a debate about those people that might be a "burden on the state as well as on the family". To my mind we shouldn't draw any distinction between the severely and less severely disabled.
There is a further gaping hole in Clark's proposal. Occasionally a woman has a complicated birth or the medical team get it wrong and the child receives a brain injury during the process. What if a young child is involved in a car crash and is severely disabled as a result? What would Clark suggest in these scenarios?
Let's not forget that Clark wasn't just proposing a review of care for the young. He also suggested offering free advice on euthanasia for those over 80 years of age. I blog about parenting issues so I'm not even going to venture into this territory, but I can see huge ethical problems this would pose.
Thankfully Clark wasn't taken seriously by the people of Kent. He failed to get elected and even Ukip gave him the cold shoulder saying he wouldn't have represented the party if he had been successful. I just hope Clark has learned something from this episode and realised how ill-educated his views are.
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