Monday, November 23, 2015

Cyborg rights - Personal or Property Damage

I recently was reading a my twitter feed, and I heard that Adrianne Hasslet-Davis, a public speaker and amputee who lost her leg in the Boston marathon bomb attack, had a bag with some of her legs and dance parts misplaced by an airline. Being a public figure, she brought the issue to a Twitter post. The immediacy and outrage of the response was a frightening thing to witness. In the end, Adrianne had to remind her followers not to "cyber-bully" the airline. She is a class act. In fact, the incident brought up several subjects of discussion with the airline about rights for amputees. Incidentally, the airline jumped in and found her bag and legs very quickly.

 The episode got me thinking about what it would be like for the average amputee to go through a similar circumstance, or having their leg damaged as the result of an accident or injury.  Most of us only own one leg that really works for us. Some of us own some specialized versions, for running or working in an environment that a traditional socket will not work in. It takes several weeks to replace a socket and go through the fittings and get it to fit correctly. A leg, or for that matter and arm or a wheelchair is not something that most of us can easily do without for several weeks. I know that I depend on having my leg for the most basic of personal needs. Oh, I suppose I could use a wheelchair or crutches to get around in a pinch, but it would make my life a lot less enjoyable. For some people, it is not an option, due to the nature of their work, to resort to a lesser form of mobility. A construction worker certainly could not climb a ladder while being bound to a wheel chair,

According to the current tort laws within the United States, as noted by blogger Gordon Sibler in his post Legal rights of Cyborgs :

From time immemorial, our common law has provided one set of remedies for damage to one’s property and another set for damage to one’s person.  While the latter allows the full gamut of recovery including pain and suffering, lost earnings, medical expenses, lost enjoyment of life and loss of consortium, the former merely allows recovery of the property’s repair or replacement value.  One cannot even recover for the sentimental value of property[i].  Yet today, many of us depend on our devices to perform the normal tasks of living, such as walking, talking, hearing and seeing.  Damage to these prosthetics can leave a person without the ability to work or perform activities of daily living until repaired.  As demonstrated in this article, there is arguably a new suspect class in need of protection – cyborgs. 
Further exploration of this issue brought me to one of my favorite podcasts. It is a 31 minute discussion between the hosts of Amp'd, Peggy Chenoweth and Dave McGill  That really hits the points on this problem. It is a great episode, and I think you should listen.

What we need to remember is that until the law actually changes, and a precedent is set, our prosthetic devices are considered to be vehicles, not part of our bodies.The difference is that, unlike a car, that when it is damaged and is in the repair shop, our legs cannot be easily replaced. There are not rental companies that provide prosthetic devices. For many of us, we cannot work without them, and this will be a loss of income, that will not be covered by insurance. This will cause an undo burden on any amputee that is injured. I am not sure how this precedent can be changed. But it needs to be. There are way too many people being affected by this. We need to fight to get a new class of insurance claims, using our official designation of cyborgs. The definition is described in my post I Am a Cyborg Every amputee is in this category. I believe we need to define it, and use it to protect our rights!

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