The story of David Vernon is a tragedy (TNT, 10-24). My heart goes out to his brother and to all those who loved David. But it is a tragedy, not a mistake by a caregiver or a criminal act. David Vernon was disabled. He needed, and received, assistance. But he also had something profoundly valuable: his autonomy.
Every time we allow a disabled person the autonomy to make their own decisions, we are allowing them to make poor decisions. We cannot, and should not, protect people, even people with disabilities, from making their own mistakes. We also don’t want to pay for the level of supervision and control that would have forced David to live in an institution. And we certainly shouldn’t have to pay for it through the court system.
David had his own room. His privacy. We understand he did not like the fan. Are we to force it on him? Who of us would have predicted this accident?
I did not know David, but I know many like him. Those who knew him surely loved him, and are devastated by what has happened. However, we should not expect the state to monitor and control every aspect of David’s life, in order to prevent this and every other conceivable tragedy that might occur. This is not a good use of our limited resources. More importantly, it would also necessarily restrict David’s autonomy, his freedom, to do what he wanted. That freedom is priceless.