The Instigator
KevinW
Pro (for)
Losing
19 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Con (against)
Winning
38 Points

Birth vs Acquired Disabilities

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 12 votes the winner is...
bluesteel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/25/2010 Category: Health
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,880 times Debate No: 13779
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (12)

 

KevinW

Pro

Which is worse - to be disabled at birth or at some other time in life?

1 Disabled (or disability) is a functional limitation of the body or mind.
2. Quality of life is the type of medical/mental health and social conditions across a person's life-span

The pro of this debate (me) contends a birth injury is worse to deal with than being disabled later in life.

Let me start with some general facts or observations , which I think most people would agree on:

Frequently babies who are born prematurely (birth weight = 5 1/2 pounds)[1] arguably have severe physical and mental consequences. If we assume that a person lives a relative normal life span, he or she will incur more financial expenditures than people who are injured later in life or acquire a disease. If we assume that some people born with disabilities die before normal life expectancy, then there is the human emotional loss of "a life that should have been, but never was." Often premature infants are not only physically impaired, they often wind up with cognitive deficits, which affects learning and behavior. These children and adults do not have the other same type of experiences that typically developing people do while individuals who acquire problems later on as they age have the benefit of having had typical experiences for some part of their existence at least.

I anticipate my opponent will make the argument that acquired disabilities are just as catastrophic in terms of quality of life during that time, costly and equally as emotionally gutwretching. True, but which is more difficult? Obviously the infants who are born with a catastrophic problem don't have a chance to have a typical quality of life where people who become disabled later on can partake in a "normal" existence.

________
This debate is set for four rounds. Round 1: Opening statements, rounds 2-3: 2 rebuttals and round 4: Closing statements/rebuttal. I look forward to meeting my opponent and I thank them in advance for their participation.

[1] http://search.medicinenet.com...
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the topic KevinW.

==Burden of proof==

*My opponent says: The pro of this debate contends a birth injury is worse to deal with than being disabled later in life*

In the English language, "being disabled" must refer to the same entity who must "deal with" the disability; otherwise the sentence is nonsensical. I take this to mean that we are evaluating this debate from the perspective of the person who is disabled (as opposed to the perspective of the parents or society).

Thus, my opponent, as the instigator/pro, has the burden to prove that congenital birth defects are harder for the disabled person to deal with than are disabilities acquired later in life.

==My case==

C1) Depression

Someone who is disabled from birth cannot miss something that he never had. For example, someone who is born blind will not miss the vivid blues of the sky, the sight of his wife's loving eyes, or the ability to drive a car. Someone who is blinded later in life will drastically miss his former abilities.

Because someone who is disabled later in life is liable to miss his former functionality, acquired disabilities are liable to cause serious depression. According to Karla Thompson, Ph.D., people who acquire a disability are 10 times more likely to suffer depression than the average person. [1]

C2) Can't teach an old dog new tricks

People who are disabled from birth quickly learn to deal with their disability. Someone who is born blind will learn sign language and how to navigate with a walking stick. Someone who is blinded later in life will find it MUCH more difficult to learn these skills. Kids learn languages, for example, much more easily than adults.

There is a reason for this. Babies are born with many times more neurons than they actually need. As their brain determines which tasks the baby will need to perform in life, it decides which neurons to keep and which to eliminate. People who need to learn sign language and need to navigate with their hands will keep different neurons than someone who is not blind. According to Dr. Norman Doidge, in The Brain that Changes Itself, children born without sight have their ocular brain areas taken over by their tactile and auditory brain areas. People who are born without sight quickly develop a more sensitive feeling of touch and hearing. Doidge furthers than it takes more than 3 years for similar changes to occur to an adult brain through neuroplasticity.

These compensations are the reason for the existence of "idiot savants," like Rain Man, who is mentally handicapped but has 100% perfect memory. Because one brain area is damaged at birth, the brain compensates for this by strengthening another brain area. People who acquire a disability are less likely to have their brain find ways to compensate than someone who is disabled from birth.

Due to character constraints, I reserve my rebuttal for R2.

==Citations==

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 1
KevinW

Pro

Hi Bluesteel - thanks for joining me in my first debate on this cite and good luck!

Rebuttal 1: I have cerebral palsy from birth, so I am biased for the position I'm taking I admit from the start. Essentially I am a quadriplegic in a wheelchair relying on others for everything I do and need. So I know how it is. My mind is sharp, but my motor control is almost non-existent.

If you told a blind man about the blue sky or the colors of the rainbow, he probably would figure that his experience is not normal. When I see people walking, I know my experience is not typical and I would do anything to get out of this wheelchair. I know people who were born with epilepsy and they hate what they have to go through and they wish there was a cure. So, your argument number one does not hold.

I am impressed with your knowledge of neuroscience and neuroplasticity. I am familiar with the Dr. Doidge book [1]. Schwartz in The Mind and The Brain has similar facts. If you cover a newborn cats eyes for eight days, they will lose the cortical area that processes vision, but the auditory cortex takes over allowing the cat to recover sight in the eye that was covered [2]. That is, however, not what we are arguing. We are arguing about human subjective experience of disability. The brain does play a role in that issue, but it is abstract for our purposes.

Depression is certainly a problem for those who have disabilities. Anxiety and other disorders are also prevalent especially with those disorders which can affect cognitive functioning. For example, it is known that the risk for comorbid (going along with) mental disorders is 3 to 4 times greater for those who have mental retardation [3]. While your source was pretty informative, I wish to correct one thing. According to Karen Thompson, the rate of disability in the United States is 17% (p. 3). Three years later, a publication was put out saying the number of people with disabilities is 58,731,081 [4]. This is approximately 16.8% of the population. I point it out to suggest numbers change over time and there is the possibility that document may be totally accurate in this or other ways.

I reject the proposition that dealing with a disability is just a matter the individual. The people around that individual have to "deal" with it too. The New Heritage Dictionary defines deal as "treatment or conduct, honest dealing" [5]. It says nothing about the individual so it can apply anyone.

I look forward to Bluesteel's reply.

________________
[1] Doidge. The Brain That Changes Itself.
[2] Schwartz. The Mind and The Brain.
[3] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Text Revised-IV. The American Psychiatric Association.
[4] http://www.vaboard.org...
[5] The New Heritage Dictionary.
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the timely response KevinW. I know it's hard to debate something so very personal; thank you for remaining objective.

==Rebuttal to R1==

*My opponent talks about premature babies*

According to a recent article in Time Magazine, the number of premature babies is increasing in the U.S. The reason? Better incubator technology can now keep babies alive who would have definitely died 10 to 20 years ago. The earlier a premature baby is born, the more likely it will suffer a disability but also the more likely it would have died in years past. My opponent creates a false dichotomy – it's worse to be born premature than born normal. The correct dichotomy is that being born premature is a given, but it's better to be alive (and possibly disabled) than dead.

*Timeline arguments*

My opponent seems to argue that having a disability for longer is worse.

However, all arguments in this vein are irrelevant because theoretically, a baby could acquire a disability immediately upon birth. A male baby could be born without a reproductive organ, but a slip of the doctor's scalpel during circumcision would achieve the same result. It is possible to have an acquired disability for your entire life as well.

Thus, I am the only one making arguments specific to why acquired disabilities are worse – they are more likely to lead to depression and older people are less adaptable to the disability.

==Rebuttal to R2==

*Epilepsy/cerebral palsy*

I also sincerely wish that there were a cure for both. But I don't see a difference between someone who has the disease from day 1 of his life versus someone who acquires the disease on day 2 of his life.

*If you told a blind man about the blue sky or the colors of the rainbow, he probably would figure that his experience is not normal*

I'm sure he already knows he is not normal. But telling a curious, inquisitive boy who has been blind from birth what the sky looks like might be seen as a kindness. Telling a man who has been recently blinded how pretty the sky looks would probably be seen as cruel.

*Neuroplasticity*

I think my opponent misunderstands my argument. Someone who is blind from birth has his brain quickly compensate. The blind have been known to have the ability to make a perfect mental map of their environment. The left brain can often compensate for problems in the right brain, and vice versa. Someone who is disabled in adulthood will have a more difficult time learning/adapting since his brain is less pliable.

*Karen Thompson evidence*

She likely rounded 16.8% up to 17%. Her statistic is still valid: those who acquire a disability are 10 times more likely to suffer depression.

*I reject the proposition that dealing with a disability is just a matter the individual*

My opponent doesn't answer my grammatical analysis from his opening statement: the object of the sentence for "worse to deal with" and "being disabled later in life" must be the same.
Debate Round No. 2
KevinW

Pro

Rebuttal 2:

A) True, they have better technology now and I wish they had it when I was being born. Neonatologists do an incredible job keeping these small babies alive. I will agree with my opponent that being born alive even with a disability is better than being dead. I am against abortion or infatacide for these new lives.

B) Professionals have identified birth trauma causes secondary psychological concerns. For example, Speyrer who reviewed Dr. Emmerson's book Birth Trauma says: "He writes that such traumas will not "go away" of their own accord" [1]. This author also points out that "babies have difficulty bonding and later have problems with substance abuse." My opponent probably knows people are different. Although the elderly are at greater risk for depression, so are people with birth injury. If the elderly and those with birth injuries are treated correctly, the depression can be resolved or managed to a degree. The other thing my opponent fails to acknowledge is that childhood is a time for development, which will last for the rest of that person's life. Birth injury, depending on severity, can curtail typical development and affect quality of life until death. For example, "children's limited peer-related social competence constrains all aspects of their development of friendships" [2]. Older adults and the elderly do not have that problem and this may help them in recovery if they do sustain brain injury (more on this below).

C) Epilepsy and cerebral palsy: I will let this stand.

D) My opponent is trying to make the neuroplasticity argument too simplistic. For readers who may not know, neuroplasticity is the process of the brain adapting or changing because of environmental stimuli. Although it is not a new discovery, scientists are still learning to use this natural process. Yes, a young brain is more malleable than an older one, but it also depends. A baby born with cerebral palsy may respond to environmental therapeutic stimulation to a degree, but it tends to plateau at some point. Adults who acquire brain injury have former experience to fall back on. Dr. Doidge explains the brain has a "memory" for lost abilities and is able to reconnect or connect differently to bring back lost ability [3]. Such adults, therefore, improve faster and perhaps more so than the pediatric populations because such people have a foundation of typical functioning in the past. Birth injury does not have such an advantage. So while my opponent is partially correct on this point, it is more complex than he portrayed.

E) fine

F) I have pointed out several factors that my opponent has ignored. rebut last point in R4

[1] http://primal-page.com...
[2] Guralnick, Neville, Hammond, & Connor (2007). The Friendships of Young Children with Developmental Delays: A Longitudinal Analysis. Journal Applied Developmental Psychology. January ; 28(1): 64–79
[3] Doidge. The Brain That Changes Itself.
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the prompt response KevinW.

==His case==

R1) Premature births

My opponent concedes that being born alive (with risk of disability) is better than being born dead and that this is the correct dichotomy. This premature births point is thus wholly irrelevant to which is harder to deal with: birth or acquired disabilities.

R2) Timeline arguments

My opponent drops my argument here and even says under his point C) "I will let this stand." My argument was that birth injuries are inflicted at birth, while acquired injuries occur anytime after birth. A premature baby could suffer oxygen deprivation during birth (a birth disability), or one hour after birth, when his respirator fails (an acquired disability). Since both types of disabilities will be experienced over the course of an entire lifetime, this argument goes away.

In the previous round, my opponent literally concedes both of his original arguments by conceding the first outright and conceding my response to the second. Since he also concedes that he has the burden of proof, when his entire case falls, he fails to uphold the burden or proof (BOP). He and I can continue wrangling over whether my case is true, but I shouldn't need to win my case, as I don't have the BOP in this debate.

==My case==

C1) Depression

My point here was that someone who is disabled from birth will not have experienced what he or she is missing, so the depression is less severe. Someone who is deaf from birth can communicate using sign language, but someone who is 40 and loses his hearing will immediately miss the whispered sound of his lover's voice and the ability to communicate with loved ones. Karen Thompson says that those with acquired disabilities are 10 times more likely to suffer depression, since they severely miss their former functionality. People who are born with disabilities often adapt to their disability so well, they do not want to change, such as deaf people who refuse cochlear implants to allow them to hear. [1]

*My opponent brings up birth trauma*

Birth trauma is the idea that the stresses of birth can be psychologically traumatic to the newborn. I would argue that PTSD in veterans induced by the horrors of war is more traumatic.

*social competence*

This would also apply to any acquired disability that occurs in early childhood. My opponent's source (footnote 2) is actually about children whose brains are "young for their age" (in kindergarten) and concluded that parental intervention can increase social competence.

C2) Old dog, new tricks

Babies' brain's immediately adapt to and compensate for birth disabilities. Adult brains take at least 3 years and don't compensate as well.

*adults recover more quickly from brain injury*

You have to compare similar disabilities to each other. People with minor brain injuries cannot be compared to people born with a complete lack of functionality in certain areas.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 3
KevinW

Pro

Final Statements/Rebuttals

I would argue that premature births or other births, either on time or late that have complications and demand incubator use, are relevant. I do not know what my opponent is thinking, but where I come from if a baby is injured at birth and the incubator fails, prime fascia rules apply that the birth injury caused the injury secondary to incubator failer. The baby would not need an incubator if the birth injury had not occurred in the first place. My opponent fails on this point.

I do not think I conceded anything. The sentence "In the previous round, my opponent literally concedes both of his original arguments by conceding the first outright and conceding my response to the second" is incoherent. Therefore, this whole paragraph that my opponent wrote makes no sense and should not be taken seriously. Let me be clear, birth injuries are more difficult to deal or cope with for the individual. Let me review the evidence for this:
1. Birth injuries last longer than acquired conditions assuming the person with the birth injury lives a normal life-span.
2. The developmental consequences for those with birth injuries will affect them for the rest of there lives. While Bluesteel tried to discredit the friendship study presented in the last round, apparently he did not either read it through or was deceptive in his reporting. The authors do report "The results of this study suggest the existence of a complex pattern of social interactions" and that "a substantial proportion (47.6%) showed declines over the two-year period" [1].
3. For all the general talk about neuroplasticity being more in favor of new borns and children, it depends how severe the damage is and where. It also depends on support systems, when therapy begins and environmental circumstances. Even under ideal circumstances, especially severe cases, recovery is only partial. Less severe cases, more progress can be made. Progress varies widely from person to person. Older people have the advantage of previous neural networks which doctors and therapists can work to restore to some extent. With birth injury, professionals are trying to build something out of nothing, which is more difficult.

I am disappointed Bluesteel has decided to make it sound like depression is not as severe in people with birth injuries as it is in acquired conditions. Shame on him. I am in the mental health field and it is difficult to say what anyone else feels.

In this debate, I have stated my credentials -- I am disabled and I am in the mental health field.

The BOP is in fact on both of us since both sides are being argued. All my opponent has done is argue depression while I argue more holistically. My opponent has been too simplistic. His arguments have been academic and may not apply to every day life for people with disabilities. My argument is, therefore, more plausible. This is why I urge a yes vote.

Thank you!

[1] Guralnick, et.al. (see R3)
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for a really great debate KevinW.

==His case==

R1) Premature births

This point doesn't really add anything to the debate – it merely explains the mechanism by which some people acquire birth disabilities. And remember, it's better to be born premature and be disabled than born premature and die.

R2) Longer time period

My opponent didn't answer my argument here before – according to the rules of debate, he shouldn't be allowed to answer in the last round.

I offered two examples here, but my opponent only nitpicks my second example, he doesn't answer the larger argument. Someone can acquire a disability immediately after birth and have it for the same period of time. A baby can suffer brain damage from oxygen deprivation during birth (a birth disability) or he could choke on his spittle an hour later, suffer oxygen deprivation, and thus acquire the same disability. Since both birth and acquired disabilities can be possessed for an entire lifetime, the length of disability is irrelevant, since both can be equally bad in this regard.

*friendship study*

My opponent never answers two key arguments here: 1) someone can acquire a disability before early childhood as well, so this applies to both types of disability equally and 2) I read his study and it was about children who are immature for their ages in kindergarten, not the disabled.

==My case==

C1) Depression

My opponent says shame on me. I'm not suggesting that depression is less severe among those with birth disabilities, but my Karla Thompson evidence says it is less common. People with acquired disabilities are 10 times more likely to suffer depression. My opponent doesn't answer my evidence that people with birth disabilities often adapt so well that they don't want functionality back, such as the deaf who refuse cochlear implants. The same is not true for acquired disabilities.

C2) Old dog, new tricks

People who are blind from birth will immediately develop a better sense of touch and smell, since these senses will take over their ocular brain area; neuroplasticity also helps them develop a perfect mental map of their environments. Anyone who is blinded as an adult will take at least 3 years to acquire the same compensations, according to Norman Doidge. Someone who is deaf at birth can much more easily learn sign language than someone who loses his hearing at age 50, since children's brains naturally soak up languages.

My opponent says it depends on the situation, but I apply similar disabilities to each other and show that people and their brains are more adaptable to birth disabilities than acquired disabilities. He says adults can recover more easily, but if the adult recovers at all, the brain injury clearly wasn't as serious as the birth injury my opponent is comparing it to. Most abilities, like facial recognition, are innate, not learned.

I have thus shown that acquired disabilities are more jarring and harder to adapt to. Vote con.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by tvellalott 3 years ago
tvellalott
Very interesting debate guys, indeed indeed.
[[[RFD]]]
Conduct: TIED
Spelling and Grammer: TIED
Arguments: CON
The arguments that "You don't miss what you never had" and "Birth defects are easier learn to deal with than Acquired defects" were both very strong.
Sources: PRO
He obviously is very well read and was able to draw from a vast range of sources.

Very close and good work to both of you.
Posted by Freeman 3 years ago
Freeman
Not so fast, KevinW.

RFD coming
Posted by m93samman 3 years ago
m93samman
A lot of Con's points went unanswered and happened to be points that were sufficient to negate the resolution.

To KevinW: You did make a valiant effort for your first debate; you just got unlucky and drew bluesteel as your opponent, who happens to be one of the best active members. We all would love to have you in the community, for us to teach you and to learn from you.
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