Assisted Death and Disability 2/3

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People with cancer are much less likely to experience the return of historic happiness levels while in treatment, because treatment is on a shorter time table. They often get better or die before the couple of years acceptance can take. This, combined with lack of accurate disability representation and active segregation of disabled people, means that the clearest concept of disability many abled people have is of a terminal disease leaving the patient in suffering and misery.

It makes sense then that abled people would support what they see as an end to suffering. I think the majority of people who support “death with dignity” do not intend the harm their cause creates. But ignorance is not sufficient excuse to endanger and devalue disabled life, and not meaning to cause harm doesn’t do much to alleviate it.

While unrelenting physical pain is the primary fear of most assisted death advocates, it isn’t even in the top five of reasons people request the administration of a lethal injection. Those are “loss of autonomy” (89.9%), “less able to engage in activities” (87.4%), “loss of dignity” (83.8%), “loss of control of bodily functions” (58.7%) and “feelings of being a burden” (38.3%). (Source: Death With Dignity Act Annual Reports, Oregon)

I have experienced life as abled and disabled, as well and sick. I have depression in addition to a variety of other mental and physical ailments. I know that when my body was relatively okay but my depression made me suicidal, I felt like a burden. I felt trapped and unempowered and undignified. I was certainly less able to engage in my life. Loss of control over bodily functions came later, but I can check off the whole list by this point.

Yet I don’t want to die. I resent the implication that I should. I detest the ableism that drives my disabled cousins to end their lives, and the abled “advocates” that won’t fight for life with dignity. If someone is contemplating suicide because of loss of autonomy, they need autonomy, not death. If someone wants to die because they feel unable to engage in life, they need accommodations or resources to engage in life, not to engage in death. If someone wants to die because they feel like a burden, then someone very well may be guilt tripping them to death.

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