Right to Die: Painfully Clear

June 1, 2007 at 7:41 PM (Duty to Die Movement) ()

This isn’t the week that I should be blogfightin’ with the Right to Die Crowd… believe me …but this bit from the high profile Huffington Post was troubling, both for it’s position, and because the Huff thought this was something that needed space on their site.

Mr. Russel Shaw puts on a genial face, he does…and tells PWD’s who fear the Right to Die movement that Right to Die advocates are their friends…

Shaw first admits that:

Admittedly, I don’t have the immediate personal sensitivity to this issue that some disabled persons might have.

Yes, this is certainly not an argument on whether a temporarily able-bodied man wonders if he and those he loves will suffer pain at the end of life.

Then, Mr Shaw continues:

Could the real issue for some disability advocates be that ongoing life experiences have convinced you that able-bodied citizens feel you are “in the way,” and that right-to-die types have as the ultimate goal more tools to get you, our disabled brothers and sisters, “out of the way?”

Ya Think?

Many people with impairment remember a time when we were not in control of what happened to us, , or are *already* at the mercy of cost cutting measures that force people to hand over decision making about their *continued existence* to someone else. Or, we fear that we will be in that place sometime in the future.

I’ve been pressured in the hospital many times, not just to sign a DNR order, for example, but that I must not put anything into the free form comments, but just check the box that allows for withdrawal of nutrition and hydration. I customize the order for what I will and will not permit, face down the pressure to make it more “cost effective” for the hospital to end my life and sign it my way…

Of course, Mr Russel Shaw would say that that isn’t what assisted suicide is about at all…that folks that do this are *asked* to do it, solely as a means to end physical pain that has become too much to bear.

But, in the comments to his post sndrake of “Not Dead Yet” says:

You talk of “pain” but you might have been a little more honest and let people know that even in Oregon that reason doesn’t come near the top of the list that people have given for seeking assisted suicide. “fear of being a burden” and “loss of autonomy” come closer. Those aren’t medical issues

Why goodness me, and looky here…

There’s that fear of loss of autonomy…right at the top of the list.

And “being a burden,” …sounds like people need some validation that there’s no crime in needing assistance to live one’s life.

Disabled people are right in their experience and intuition that loss of autonomy is around many corners and that we have to be vigilant that as we suddenly or gradually need more care that we don’t get a mental push from some idea …and that *fear* increased to a wish for death— *has* *been* exploited…it is what Kevorkian’s actions are full of…

[update: Here’s the Wikipedia entry, with references at the bottom]

If excruciating physical pain were clearly the only reasons that people asked for assisted suicide…I’d have much less concern over it’s being abused and misused to get rid of the less convienient among us. I myself would truly *want* it as an option if all other experiences,thoughts,words,were consumed by physical pain.

*But* *pain* *is* *not* *the* *only* *reason* *people* *asked.

And, as Mr Drake continued in his comment:

Calling the suicidal wishes of disabled people “rational” and the suicidal wishes of nondisabled people “irrational” is nothing more than bigotry.

It’s the ultimate expression of the human doctor or caregiver or family member thinking, “Well I could never live like that…” and subtly or directly, projecting that attitude onto the person who is considering assisted suicide.

“I could never live like that…”

How *often* have any of us with disabilities heard *that*

I understand that there are many who see this choice as a rational one, many, some of whom are my closest friends.

For me there is only a very narrow path to voluntary euthanasia that can be considered rational…the path where the physical body is only giving off, not just chronic pain, exhaustion or fatigue, but excriciating pain and agony…*and* there is no preexisting *chemical-non situational depression* involved to impair judgement.

Otherwise, assisted suicide makes life a *fear* to be exploited/transformed into murder, not a torture to be released from.

And, I’ll never call it any less. Never. Even if I choose it.

and then there’s this writer

who *admits* that voluntary euthanasia in our society is the clear road to involuntary euthanasia…but then, with a kind of eerie calm, says that it is inevitable and therefore correct.

This isn’t “Logan’s Run.”

I’ve known so many older/disabled people. In tough pain. Who grasped at every last moment to stay alive…because they *wanted to stay* or they knew others wanted them to stay.

If assisted suicide was commonplace…well…I’d have a lot fewer good stories to tell about my friends or my husband…

because many of them would have been handed the wrongheaded idea and their fear would have pushed them to leave the planet early.

I love *this response* that (in a restrained and civilized way, laugh) wonders why Kevorkian has all this access to exposure


  1. hymes said,

    A psychiatrist on my taskforce who is for forced treatment of people with psychiatric labels, made the astonishing (to me) statement that suicide could be a rational act so forced treatment shouldn’t be based on behavior. I have never before run into a psychiatrist who believes in rational suicide nor a survivor of a sucide attempt who thought they were rational at the time they made their attempt. Steven Drake’s explanation is the only one I can come up with as well, that believing in rational suicide is bigotry. I have to say this statement coming from a psychiatrist has disturbed me all weekend.

    On the other hand, I am keeping a copy of his email in case anyone I know needs an evaluation to let them make their own decision about discontinuing dialysis while having a psychiatric label……..

  2. Gary Presley said,

    “Eeerie calm?” Please, I think I wrote it more with “bleak resolution” to the idea that human nature, for which the Christian concept of Original Sin is a metaphor, means that human beings tend to choose ease, comfort, and self-satisfaction before sacrifice and love for one another.

    It is really, really strange to me that — well, for example, that Western culture has moved away from slavery, from racial discrimination, and from the oppression of females, but yet we have an impetus toward a Utilitarian ethos that views people as disposable cogs in a social machine.

    The impetus toward euthanasia will increase when the human race begins to be transformed by genetic manipulation. Humans are, of course, different in ethics, social values, and moral standards than, for example, a citizen of London circa 1700 and even more so from a citizen of Paris circa 1300, but the changes have been evolutionary and generally positive (setting aside the industrialization of war making possible mass killings). With genetic manipulation, extraordinarily changes will be possible on a revolutionary rather than evolutionary basis, and it will boggle our current conception of what it means to be a human being.

  3. imfunny2 said,

    When or if, most present impairments are corrected out of existence….

    We will have lost more than impairment…

    A standard of physical function and ability with bring with it…..

    Oh, Lessee…

    Further disrespect of innovation, flexible perceiving,thinking and doing, adaptability, invention,

    And in a society where everyone begins much closer to some crazed ideal of physical perfection….

    How much more marginalized will those people be who’s impariment is not corrected by prenatal testing and/or genetic manipulation….

    Birth accident, childhood and adult accidental injury, war, diseeases we cannot fix or eradicate even then…

    Or the occasional non conformist that chooses to live a life without whatever genetic manipulation or prenatal testing offers…

    The disabled, societies will *always* have….best that society learn we are people now , rather than later when the pressure for perfection is much much higher, made so by genetic mainipulation when it will be more difficult for the able to comprehend.

    A planet full of conformists. Meh. Gagh.

    Glad I won’t be there to see it. (But I’m certainly not about to hurry it along)

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