Monday, October 6, 2014

Debating Assisted Suicide: 'Contempt for life with disability surrounds us'

This article was published by Access Magazine, a disability rights magazine in the UK.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE is the Spokesperson/Convener of the Not Dead Yet UK Campaign. Kevin was recently hired as the Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International.

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Advocates of assisted suicide say that it is for people who are terminally ill, not disabled people. But assisted suicide will not be confined to those dying imminently. Falconer’s Bill includes people with 
progressive conditions.

And just look at how the wealthy lobby for legalizing assisted suicide always use (or abuse) severely disabled people who are not terminally ill, to garner untutored public support for assisted suicide. Severely disabled people deeply grieving their losses with their newly discovered motor neurone disease, despairing of their futures, believing death is their only option.

The pro-assisted suicide lobby commissions polls that ask questions which are confusing or misleading. People believe they are voting in favour of an image they hold of a peaceful, painless death at home, surrounded by loving family. When they are shown the more realistic scenarios that such a law would bring about, their support falls away dramatically. According to a ComRes poll published on July 18th this year, 43% remain for, 43% decide against and the rest ‘don’t know’.

Inadequate protections

Disabled people do not currently receive adequate protection from either the Courts or the police. If there is not enough support made available to suicidal disabled people from disabled people’s organisations, that is generally because we are starved of resources. There are no celebrity millions for us; instead, we’re threatened out of existence by cuts, or else forced to work as volunteers on nil resources to resist this growing death cult.

At present, the Courts are not given to examining the suicidal feelings of disabled people. They, like the general public, attribute an individual’s desire to die to their disabilities, rather than to the circumstances of their lives – which could include the loss of a spouse, confinement to a nursing home, or the pressure of feeling that they are burdens on their families. They superficially conclude that the individual is not ‘suicidal’ – but also not treatable, nor deserving of support to live and love.

Disabled people and those with incurable chronic diseases have experienced a long history of persecution and genocide. It is too easily forgotten that during the 1930s, 200,000 people with disabilities were put to death by Nazi physicians who were inspired by contemporary euthanasia movements in England and the US, long before the racial genocide began.

People with visible disabilities have historically been forced to hide from the public gaze. Only a short while ago disabled people were routinely imprisoned in institutions. More recently, there has been an international rise in the frequency of hate crimes against people with disabilities. Contempt for life with disability surrounds us.

In this context, we should be granted greater protections for our lives, as a minority group at risk – not having what little protection from harm and attack we can still count on stripped away from us.

Further information about the Not Dead Yet UK Campaign can be found at: and on Twitter by following @notdeadyetuk

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