In his opening address to the Disability Royal Commission, chair Ronald Sackville QC told the inquiry there was a large difference in life expectancy for people living with intellectual disability in New South Wales.
During the two-week hearing in Sydney, the commission will hear directly from several people with cognitive disability as well as parents, medical practitioners, experts, advocacy groups and government representatives.
The consequences of neglect or abuse within the health system for those with cognitive disability are “as disturbing as they are profound,” Mr Sackville said.
“They should shock the conscience of all Australians.”
Rebecca Kelly, whose eight-year-old son Ryan has complex medical needs including Down syndrome, said people with disability were seen as “in some way broken” and needed to be made “as normal as possible”.
“Doctors are all about curing stuff and … if you can’t cure it under that model then you eradicate it under that model,” Dr Kelly told the hearing.
The same medical model impacts the care a child receives throughout life, she said.
“If you have a doctor (who) thinks that possibly your life’s going to be a little bit better if your child doesn’t make it because they’re taking that burden away from you, that has horrible implications for the level of care that you don’t get,” Dr Kelly said.
“That child isn’t going to be valued in the same way that another child (would be).”
Dr Kelly said she’d like to see fundamental change in the way doctors are trained to break the idea that age or disability devalues humanity.
Disability abuse ‘should shock Aussies’ (The Australian)