Alison Davis, champion of the disability community and unfailing exemplar of a life
well lived, died early on December 3, 2013.
Born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, Alison also bravely dealt with several
other serious chronic debilitating conditions that left her in constant severe pain.
Several decades before her death Alison despaired of ever escaping her disabilities,
contemplating and eventually attempting suicide several times.
However, she was eventually persuaded that suicide was not the answer by her full
time personal assistant, Colin Harte, and it was on a 1995 trip to India that Alison,
after witnessing the severe plight of the Indian poor, decided that she had
something to live for – helping those who, like her, had disabilities.
Alison was an ardent advocate against assisted suicide and euthanasia, making the
cogent point that had they been feely available during her darkest times, she would
ended her life – a life that despite her disabilities turned out to be filled with
immense joy and wonder at all the good things she was privileged to experience.
From 1982 until her death she served as the National coordinator of No Less
Human, an arm of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
By the time I met Alison in Rome in 2004, I was well aware of her remarkable status
as a defender of all people with disabilities. I recall many wonderful moments as we
attended meetings of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican and on
sightseeing jaunts around the city.
It was, however, a simple dinner that several of us shared at a restaurant in the
shadows of St. Peter’s that leaves me with my most enduring memory of Alison.
Clearly in pain and tired after a long day, she was indefatigably positive, cheerful,
and funny. We chuckled about her characteristic little wave, which reminded me of
the Royal wave of Queen Elizabeth. Alison liked the royal comparison.
That dinner in Rome said all that needed to be said about Alison: She was defined by
her joy of life, by love, given and received, and by her extraordinary care for others.
Her medical disabilities didn’t define her, they were things that needed to be bent to
her will for a life well lived.
And a life well lived is exactly what Alison accomplished.
Dr. Mark Mostert is the Director of the Center for Disability in the Public Square
for the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network and serves as a member of their
Board of Directors.