With the rate of COVID19 deaths in Australia escalating weekly, some politicians have become quick to stress the prevalence of “underlying health conditions” in some of those cases. It’s a diversion tactic to make us believe that COVID is often only part of the equation– the people who are dying represent only a small minority and were already more susceptible to grave illness.
However the reality, according to the Australian Institute of Health, is that almost half of Australians have underlying health conditions.
Belinda O’Connor, a Melbourne-based midwife, took to Twitter to begin a campaign to “to put a human face to all of those people the media and LNP believe are expendable to Covid,” she wrote over the weekend.
O’Connor began the thread with #underlyinghealthcondition, accompanying an image of her 18-year old son, who was born with a severe congenital heart defect.
“His #underlyinghealthcondition does not lessen the value of his life,” O’Connor wrote.
Since the thread started, thousands of people across the country have contributed their ‘underlying health conditions’, including Nicky Riles, who wrote:
“My daughter & 9 year granddaughter have coeliac disease. Otherwise really fit & healthy. But if they die of Covid they will be announced as having an underlying condition.”
Chloe Butler, a Gold-Coast anaesthetist, shared her story:
“I have Autoimmune Polyglandular Syndrome, which includes adrenal insufficiency so I’m dependent on steroids to survive. I’m a doctor (anaesthetist), & a mum with a family who love me. I still have a lot to contribute & a lot of living to do despite my #UnderlyingHealthCondition.”
“Underlying health conditions” is a hyper charged political spin vector and it is morally and ethically bankrupt,” Tim Graham, a Senior Lecturer at Queensland University of Technology said on Twitter. “We cannot let politicians and other powerful actors use this – frankly, it needs to be held up to the light and debunked out of existence.”
“Imagine for a moment the pain and anger it would cause if a loved one passed away and then someone says to you, “oh but they had an underlying condition right?”. Now scale that up to the size of a state and broadcast it daily on national TV. No, that’s not OK and it needs to stop.”
#UnderlyingDoesntJustifyDying has also been trending online, and Graham has broadcasted his desire to see the campaign grow.
“I would like to raise awareness about the #UnderlyingDoesntJustifyDying campaign. Thank you to @jennibeattie for sharing this with me and please consider amplifying that hashtag because “underlying health conditions” never justifies dying from COVID-19.”
Kate Robinson, a Melbourne food-blogger, wrote on Twitter:
“I have seven chronic illnesses and this is the family I will leave behind if my immune system did not kick in when I was vaccinated. Not one of my current illnesses will shorten my life.”