As COVID-19 crosses the globe, disabled people are subject to new medical and discursive realities. Focusing on the consequences of the latter, we utilize news reports from Canada and the UK to argue the current language of pre-existing conditions represents disability as non-life, explaining away the material realities facing disabled persons. This language ignores the distribution of care work in our societies, poverty, and other forms of exclusion facing disabled people and the population more generally. Work on ventilator users points to these existing inequalities, obscured as they may be. This story is not new. Outlining existing narratives within disability studies challenging disability as deadly biological and economic deficiency and situating the ‘pre-existing’ terminology therein, we look to work in disability studies and bioethics to challenge the disability–death equation. We end reviewing counter-narratives by and for disabled people, highlighting the ongoing and life-affirming resistance throughout the disability rights movement.
Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 22(1), pp.168–174.