Ken Connor

"[O]ne that comes to mind is the story of Ruby Wise. Last year her son Chris was charged with her murder. And what he had done, essentially, is let her rot to death. He was her sole caregiver, spent his days, among other things, playing Internet poker and living off her pension while she literally was imprisoned, by her dementia, in her bed and developed huge pressure sores, many of which were bone-deep, exposing her bones. And she cried out for help loudly for weeks before she died . . . to him, and the neighbors heard. They closed their windows, they didn't respond, and her son put in earplugs."

This account should be enough to sicken anyone with a basic sense of moral decency, particularly those with an ethical grounding in the Christian religion. Christians, maintain that all human beings are of infinite worth, value and dignity. Our value stems not from the level of our economic productivity, but from the fact that we are created in the image a God who loved us so much that he sent His Son to die for us, notwithstanding our sin and frailties. This value is not dependent on our age, size, or level of function. It is unaffected by where we fall on the age continuum and undiminished by the ravages of time.

It will be difficult to muster momentum on the problem of elder abuse in a cultural milieu that embraces a utilitarian spirit and a sliding scale of human dignity. Nevertheless, Christians must be prepared to uphold the rights of the elderly as vigorously as they uphold the rights of the unborn, for surely the elderly are to be counted among the "least of these" to whom we owe a duty of care and concern.

Let us find inspiration in the work of heroes like Marie-Therese Connolly as we strive to raise the issue of elder abuse to the same level of social awareness as that of abortion, human trafficking, and other human rights issues that the Church has worked so hard to eradicate in this world.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.