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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Easy Come, Easy Go...

Since my last entry, I had planned to get many jobs done...But due to my habit of procrastination and the urgency of work and study related tasks that had to be finished presto, I realise that I lost touch with what's happening in the disability scene around the world. I know, it may have happened before but I still feel bad when this happens...

Especially now that I find the terrible news that the UK has issued its assisted suicide guidelines, a story I got from Claire Lewis' blog in a post aptly entitled Getting Away With Murder: Discriminatory how-to guide is a national disgrace.

These guidelines will provide an easy way for those taking care or giving support to their 'dependent' love ones to kill them off as long as their act was one of mercy. The guidelines, as reported by “The Guardian:

"... Made clear that someone acting out of compassion, to help a terminally ill patient with a 'clear, settled and informed wish to die' was unlikely to face the courts. But persuading or pressuring the victim to kill themselves, or benefiting from their death, would encourage prosecution..." (The  Guardian Online, 25-02-2010)

Now I could be so naive and reassure myself that the condition stating that if my kind killer does not pressure me to ask for suicide, I should be safe. Wrong!

First, this is giving the word of the killer unprecedented power. After all, can the dead body defend him/herself? I think not.

Second, who will determine whether the person's wishes to die were not due to the fact I feel isolated. Thanks to the poor support systems, lack of access to society, or few choices of health assistance, for example? And I'm assuming that they were there in the first place... which can't be determined either.

Third, can you really prove that no kind of pressure from family members to end a person's life existed? Again, highly unlikely...,

Yes, I still shiver when I recall the nightmare I talked about last time. Of being half-conscious between here and there while a team of doctors decided whether I was worth the trouble to save.

Now, my loved ones can be a 'threat'. OK, these scenarios are slightly dramatic  but considering the 'hero status' some mercy killers attain in the media after they tell their story. Gives you good reason to mistrust the media...

The value of who we are, as people with impairments, is often set against economic or medical considerations, without stopping to look at our faces and listen to what we are trying to communicate.

Ironically, all this movement in favour of assistive suicide is framed in a world that preaches equality and non-discrimination. Apparently, the right-to-life of disabled people does not feature in the list of rights we should possess. I admit that my impairments seem unbearable even a reason to die to those who think they are 'more fortunate' because they happen to be non-disabled (for now).

The fact that many of us can live a happy life because of our impairments. Yes, we have to live in a society, which is disabling us, which we seek to change, but our lives are worth living! Most of us have gone through physical pain but the greatest pain is that of having the door of opportunity slammed in our faces!

Now, amidst the disablist practice already in place (late abortion, prenatal screening, inadequate support, etc) ... we are adding the murder of people like myself, and countless others who because of their sensory, physical, intellectual, mental health... related impairments risk being earmarked for destruction.

There is only one modern state I know which instituted regulations not dissimilar to the assisted suicide guidelines and that was Nazi Germany with its euthanasia programme. It all started with disabled people and then - I need not say what happened, do I?

So, please give us a second chance.... On second thoughts - give us all the chances that we have the right to enjoy!

PS: A peak at my profile would quickly reveal that I'm not a UK resident. However, I believe that what happens in the world will, some day, affect me and other disabled people. We cannot stay silent when there's injustice - even if it happens miles away or may never affect us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shall I kill myself off, then?

I hope I shocked you with that heading. It's the conclusion that comes to mind when you read stories of so-called 'mercy killers'. You know, those people who kill off someone close to them or someone they know because they're convinced that they would be 'better off' dead. The worrying fact is that, in mostt cases, the victims tend to have impairments, or chronic conditions. People just like me...

The  worse thing of all is that mainstream society appears to sympathise with the killer, without even considering the value of the person killed. On the contrary, people who kill off their loved ones or, if doctors, their patients are even applauded for this heinous deed. The fact is that the life of those having impairments or chronic conditions is misconstrued to a life of continuous suffering and thus an unbearable existence which leads people to justify our extermination.

Hard words, I know, but the reality today calls for hard terms. If you look at our lives by only considering ourr impairments, then you might conclude that our life is really unberable if you had to live it. Of course, I'm assuming that you don't have an impairment... The fact is that my life, with all its impairments and chronic conditions, is good and I'm not about to kick the bucket, meet my maker or pass away, any time soon.

On the other hand, I can't deny that I'm concerned by the increased support for euthanasia. I am afraid to consider the eventuality of being unconscious on the verge of death with a team of doctors who do not know a single thing about who I am having to decide on whether I should live or die. A team of doctors that can only see a man with a mobility impairment and who has a visual impairment. I shiver at the prospect of being regarded as a life not worth living.

Unfortunately, with all our technological progress, the eugenic idea is still with us and growing. This idea, that we should 'improve' the human race - thus implying people with impairments should go - is manifested through abortion legislation permitting fetuses with impairments to be killed off at a later stage than non-impaired ones, and growing support for more lax euthanasia.

Worse still, the justification for these actions is framed as 'doing what is good for us'... to relieve us from an unbearable existence... but have you considered what may be causing the greatest pain? It is the fact that mainstream society fails to acknowledge our value or our place within it. Buildings with steps are still unchanged, information and communication systems are improving but can still be exclusive, what about attitudes? I am not sure...

I believe the factor that leads disabled people or their family members to choose death is the lack of support that is available. This is not just the support in terms of personal assistance and the like, but also includes the understanding of society that is ready to be sentimental and 'caring' when they read a story of a desperate father who kills his 18-year old son with epilepsy (a case which happened in Toronto a few years back) but, yet, this same society that pretends to believe in equality and human rights sometimes avoids recognising us when we're alive - thus creating our disabilities.

I ask then, what are we doing now to improve on the lives of those at risk? Will we accept the fact that disabled people's lives are unbearable and the only solution is to end them? Are we considering the real problem? And those of us who are disabled by society, do we really have to kill ourselves off?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

DAILY MAIL: Patient in a vegetative state 'talks to scientists

This is really great news and it should make those who have claimed people who do not appear to react to stiumulus as 'dead' to think again!

SOURCE: Hope, Jenny (4-2-2010) "Patient in a vegetative state 'talks  to scientists" in:  Daily Mail Online, health section. Available from: Patient in a vegetative state 'talks  to scientists (Accessed: 4-2-2010)

British scientists are hailing a world-first ' conversation' with a man diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state.

They say the breakthrough has enormous implications for the care and treatment of vegetative patients.

With the ability to communicate, patients could request pain relief, or even indicate if they wanted to end their life.
Brain scans

The answers that proved a road accident victim was not in a 'vegetative state'

Dr Adrian Owen, who led the Medical Research Council team in Cambridge, said: 'They can now have some involvement in their destiny.'

To the outside world, the 29-year-old patient  -  who suffered a severe head injury in a road accident in 2003  -  appeared unconscious and incapable of communicating.

But Dr Owen's team used a brain scanner to tap into his thoughts and monitor how he reacted to questions.

The man answered 'yes' or 'no' by conjuring up imaginary scenes that signalled a response.

Experts say the breakthrough 'changes everything' about classifying consciousness disorders.

The man was among 23 patients a control group of healthy volunteers recruited for a three-year study by Medical Research Council scientists and colleagues from the University of Liege in Belgium.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure activity in two different brain regions registering motor and spatial responses while the patients imagined specific scenes.
The patient was in a permanent vegetative state (posed by model)

Closed world: The patient was in a permanent vegetative state (posed by model)

Magnetic fields and radio waves detected blood-flow surges in each area which 'lit up' the scans.

For the 'motor' task, patients were asked to imagine standing on a tennis court and swinging an arm to return balls from an instructor.

To activate the 'spatial' region, they had to imagine walking from room to room in their home.

In four patients, the scans detected activity in the appropriate brain region as they carried out the scientists' verbal instructions.

But the 29-year-old man, who had produced reliable responses, was singled out for an even more remarkable test, says the New England Journal of Medicine.

Told to use 'motor' or 'spatial' imagery as 'yes' and 'no' answers, he correctly answered the first five of six autobiographical questions.

He was asked 'is your father's name Alexander?' and correctly answered 'yes' by imagining the tennis scene. When he was asked 'is your father's name Thomas?' he answered 'no' by thinking about walking around the house.

When the sixth question was asked, virtually no activity was seen. Scientists believe the patient had fallen asleep or simply failed to hear the question.

Dr Owen said: 'We were astonished when we saw the results of the patient's scan.

'Not only did these scans tell us that the patient was not in a vegetative state, but, more importantly, for the first time in years it provided the patient with a way of communicating his thoughts to the outside world.'

He said fMRI scanning was an expensive tool but in future, computer devices might help patients to communicate whether they needed pain relief or would like to try new drugs.

He said: 'Just for patients to exercise some autonomy is a massive step forward.'

Dr Nicholas Schiff, a neuroscientist at the Weill Cornell College in New York, said the work 'changes everything'. He said: 'These findings have extremely broad implications for concerns about the accurate assessment of patients in custodial care situations.'

Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology, University College London, said: 'It is difficult to imagine a worse experience than to be a functioning mind trapped in a body over which you have absolutely no control.

'We have the distinct possibility that, in the future, we will be able to detect cases of other patients who are conscious and what's more, we will be able to communicate with them.'

There are normally fewer than 100 patients in the UK in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) at any time. PVS is diagnosed in patients who have been in a coma for three years without being able to communicate or have any understanding of what is being said.