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Posted by Philip Patston on 15 October 2009, 8:32 am in , , ,

NZ Govt compensates for circumstance over experience

Once again our government has opted to compensate common circumstance over common experience. By wiping suicide from ACC's responsibilities, putting it in the "sickness" rather than "accident" bucket, our leaders refuse to value the fact that grief is the experience common to people who lose loved ones, no matter the cause. They choose instead to recognise the more common grief-causing circumstances of car crashes and work accidents and ignore the more unique circumstance of suicide.

This is no different to the distinction made between the circumstances of birth- or illness-related and accident-related dysfunction (disability). People who experience disability due to birth trauma (like me) do not get the same level of financial recognition as people who have a similar experience of disability due to, say, a brain injury during adulthood. Again, birth trauma goes in the "sickness" bucket and is compensated at a lower level than accidental trauma, through Health and Social Welfare funding rather than ACC.

I think it is important to acknowledge the subtle fear of dysfunction (dysfunctionphobia) at work here. Accidental dysfunction is seen as more worthy of financial compensation than congenital dysfunction. Why? Because accidental dysfunction presupposes the loss of the hallowed state of normality, or common function. Accident compensation says, you poor thing, you'll spend your whole life remembering what it's like to be normal. Health/welfare funding says, you never got the privilege - get over it. Another unstated belief is, I proffer, that somehow birth- or illness-related events could somehow be avoided, whereas accidents just happen.

Labeling suicide a function of (mental) sickness makes the same insidious assumption - that events leading up to the event could have been avoided. Ironically, this change in approach comes at the same time as taking crime-related injuries off the ACC list - of course, they could have been avoided too.

If humans were a wiser species, our elected representatives in parliament would understand that it is the common experience of unexpected loss that taxes individuals and families, not the particular circumstance that causes it. They would also recognise that the acute need for compensation reduces over time, and we would gear an intelligent system that built capacity to adapt to a new experience, rather than colluding with chronic grief over an old one.

Posted via email from Philip Patston's posterous