Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 22, 2009
Every human being is worthy of our respect – Dr. Dick Sobsey
Dr. Dick Sobsey
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - "Every human being has inherent dignity that makes her or him worthy of respect," Dr. Dick Sobsey said at the annual meeting of Catholic Social Services June 16.
Sobsey, associate director of the J.P. Das Developmental Disabilities Centre and professor of educational psychology at the University of Alberta, was the guest speaker at the annual meeting of Catholic Social Services at Hotel Macdonald June 16.
Sobsey reflected on the meaning of dignity before more than 300 people, including staff and volunteers of CSS' many programs and departments.
He used the example of his son, David, 18, to illustrate dignity and respect. David has severe and multiple disabilities but will soon attend graduation ceremonies with his classmates at Louis St. Laurent High School.
"I believe that our son has a great deal of dignity and he continues to teach us as a family and many others who are a part of his life something about dignity," he said.
"His abilities are limited, but his virtues are impressive. He does not speak, but he has never told a lie or spoken an unkind word."
Sobsey said his son does communicate and is perfectly sincere. "What you see is what you get. He suffers significantly as a result of his medical fragility and frequent seizures but he takes great joy in his life. He accepts vulnerability and trusts the people who care for him. He lives in the moment.
"I cannot imagine that anyone could be more worthy of my respect."
Sobsey was well prepared to be David's father. His son was born in 1990 but he had been working with children and adults with severe and multiple disabilities since 1968.
"I had a couple of decades of experience to prepare for being David's father."
The dictionary suggests that dignity is being worthy of respect. That means people can be invested with dignity in recognition of their talents and achievements.
"I'm not here to suggest whether some individuals deserve special recognition for their achievements but I do insist that every human being has inherent dignity that makes her or him worthy of respect," Sobsey told his audience.
"When we show our respect for the worth of every human being, they grow in dignity."
Some 66 years ago C.S. Lewis warned that rapidly evolving science would at some point force all of us to examine and ultimately take a stand on the meaning of human dignity.
"I believe we have reached that point," Sobsey said. "The concept of human dignity is under attack and I'm asking for your help in defending it."
He noted several of his colleagues in bioethics argue that human dignity is a useless concept in medical ethics because of its association with the domains of religion and human rights.
"I disagree. I think the concept of human dignity is essential to everything we do.
"As the name universal human dignity implies, every human being, without exception, is worthy of our respect regardless of his ability or disability, regardless of achievements and failings, regardless of morality or immorality, regardless of suffering."