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

Monday, April 02, 2012


Recently, on a discussion list I’m following, the topic of whether assisted suicide should be legaliZed or not and whether the idea that all disabled people are opposed to it is correct or not were discussed. Below, I’m including an adapted version of my response following:

1. Claims that assisted suicide’ is a matter of personal choice and self-determination while “euthanasia” is an imposed decision.
2. Claims that a decision to end one’s life are truly free and not influenced by other factors.
3. The discussion itself - should we be discussing whether to make assisted suicide legal before asking ourselves why people get to the point of wanting to take the irreversible decision to end their life?

To be honest, I’ve been reluctant to get involved in this discussion on end of life issues. However, as a disabled person, I feel I can’t afford to remain silent about an issue which may have direct implications on my future and on the future of other disabled people.

Is there a real difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia?

First, I would contest the distinction made between “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia”. While it is argued that the former is a request made by the person him/herself, it would be naïve for us to forget that there are social forces influencing such a decision - let alone family pressure. Indeed, if assisted suicide is legalized, a decision to continue living might be deemed as “selfish” and “irresponsible” as it would pose an unnecessary burden on one’s family or on society. We also need to factor in the economic situation that often determines the funds allocated to proper health care and independent living services.

Is assisted suicide truly a free choice?

Second, I think that before debating whether assisted suicide should be made legal, we have to ask ourselves why people are choosing to end their life in the first place,. Of course, physical pain is one reason that is often cited. However, are we ready to take an easy way out and encourage people living in already hard conditions to give up hope? Should we perhaps invest in  pain management  and in helping people to improve on their quality of life? Are we supporting people facing, in our case, terminal conditions, enough or are we reducing on their options?

Have we asked ourselves why people may choose to end their life in the first place?

Third, I understand that the end of life debate is a highly controversial and emotional one. I have been through moments in my life when I was experiencing excruciating pain and felt isolated. I admit that during these moments, I would have considered to die if that option would have been available or if I felt that any decision to prolong my life was proving to be a burden on others. I am afraid that there were occasions in life when I felt my life as a disabled person was being devalued when I hear people telling me that they would prefer to die rather than live like me. In this sense, wouldn’t assisted suicide promote this kind of attitude that you have to prove you’re worthy of living?

Conclusion: Considering assisted living - not assisted suicide...

I don’t claim that my views represent the views of all disabled people. However, what I know is that if we insist on legalizing for assisted suicide, we risk to reduce any effort to make the life of people with terminal conditions better. And, in the long run, assisted suicide will be presented as a “free choice” to people who are deemed by society to be “undesirable” and it will extend to include disabled people, minorities and so on. DespiteDespite any claims that this process of providing this right will be regulated, if people find that their choices have been limited or that they see no other ways to solve their situation, then the choice to end their lives isn’t rally free at all.

I apologize for this  long post entry . However, today we’re discussing whether people should be given the right to be assisted in ending their life. Tomorrow we will be arguing that people who are facing difficult conditions have the responsibility to end their lives for the benefit of the many. instead of focusing on assisted living, or ways we could improve independent living and pain management (where needed), we are instead focusing on how to get rid of what we perceive as the problem. And that I cannot ever agree to.
If you’re interested, the discussion list I referred to is the Disability Research Discussion List managed by the University of Leeds.


My minds eye...Gregg said...

This is a difficult topic and while I agree with most of your opinions I can't help wonder if this "Assisted Suicide" ideology is similar to the Nazi ideology of White Supremacy? Rid the world of those who are thought to be less or different. I would never encourage or discourage someone, who is mentally competent, from ending their life. However, society should have no say in the matter unless there is proof that someone made that person feel less than his/her peers.

Gordon said...

I agree that there's a parallel between the movement to legalise assisted suicide and the ideology of the third reich based not just on white supremacy as you state correctly but by the supremacy of the German people. Central to this ideology was the belief that a perfect human race could be created through the calculated elimination of those deemed inferior or undesirable people.

We see today the same ideas fundamental to such a eugenic movement and I fear that, yes, we risk committing the same atrocities of the holocaust and before when the Nazis started exterminating German disabled people and those confined to institutions. Searchc for "T4 program" for how methods of mass killings started following testing on disabled people.