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It’s A Life Or Death Situation

July 12, 2009

Last week, the House of Lords first debated, then rejected, a new law that would have made it legal to help terminally ill or disabled people to die.

This law sparked a lot of discussion among disabled people on the issue of ‘assisted suicide,’ so let me present both sides of the debate to you.

Disabled journalist, Tom Shakespeare, writes in the Guardian:  As a supporter of disability rights, I back the right of disabled people to have control over the time and manner of their death, so they can avoid unbearable suffering and achieve dignity in dying. Being disabled in itself is no reason to die, but for many of those who have terminal illness, controlling the circumstances of their death becomes very important.

Disabled peer, Lady Jane Campbell, writes, also in the Guardian: Not one organisation of or for disabled and terminally ill people has campaigned for the changes proposed. This includes organisations that advocate on behalf of people with multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease; two disabling conditions that are often referred to when describing who would benefit most from this legislation.

The amendments’ supporters are unable to reconcile the fact that with the exception of a few vocal individuals, backed by the powerful Dignity in Dying, assisted dying legislation is not supported by the people it is intended to benefit. They appear not to have noticed that the days of others knowing what is best for disabled and terminally ill people are past. We are now empowered and we know what we need to play a full part in society. We want help to live – not help to die.

If the state were to sanction any person to assist another in the ending of that person’s life, it would put at risk the lives of the very people who need every encouragement to live. We would be feeding in to the stereotype that our lives are so tragic, burdensome and insufferable that we must want to die. It takes extraordinary personal will to rise above such views. Many do not, especially when such views are held by loved ones.

Personally, I’m disabled, and I have to agree with Lady Campbell. I want help to live, not help to die. I’d much rather have the life I’ve got than no life at all. More than that, in my opinion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or whatever you want to call it, is just as bad as murder. I could never ask anyone I love to live with murdering me. That wouldn’t be love.

Your comments are very welcome, as always.

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