Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Assisted Suicide - A lifestyle choice?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Bill Peace PhD teaches at Syracuse University.
Disability rights leader and academic, Bill Peace, recently wrote an article concerning the assisted suicide death party by Betsy Davis. Davis. It is culturally significant that some media outlets turned her death party into celebration turning assisted suicide into a culturally "cool" act.

Peace states in his article:

No physician could force a patient to accept a feeding tube. No physician could force a patient to use a ventilator. These are choices Davis chose to make. At any point after she was diagnosed with ALS she had the choice to refuse treatment. Physicians could be opposed to Davis refusal to utilize life extending care but that would be her choice. The operative word here is choice. Davis made many choices post ALS diagnosis. In June of this year Davis made the choice to live long long enough to end her life via assisted suicide. She made these choices and many more. But there is a difference between making these choices and her human rights. Choice are not the equivalent to rights. Given the severity of ALS any one of a number of choices Davis made could have led to her death. Instead, she made a choice to die a very public and misleading death. In her effort to advocate for assisted suicide legislation she has had predecessors who also had public deaths on behalf of Compassion and Choices. The emotional rhetoric found in tabloids such as People sells. Sympathetic television news segments generate ratings. Again, this misleading emotional made for mass media consumption works. The fact it is wrong is lost in the flow of tears. I too cry but not for Davis but for all those whose lives are at risk. 
Having been through the medical mill as a morbidly sick child and narrowly escaping death from a severe wound that took over a year to heal, I will readily admit I have suffered. That suffering has taken the form of gut wrenching pain and serious debilitating depression. Suffering is decidedly unpleasant but to expect to avoid suffering throughout one's life is not realistic. I do my best to avoid suffering but I can freely states I have suffered far more the average human being. Not to revert to my Catholic upbringing but I can state with certainty that suffering has made me a stronger human being. In an effort to eliminate suffering we are being foolish. I don't want others to suffer but like it or not all humans will suffer. Suffering is part of the human condition. The effort to avoid suffering is understandable but unrealistic and there is more than a bit of narcissism involved. Hence the death selfie. 
I am sure my words will be met with disgust by those who support assisted suicide legislation. How dare I criticize a person's "right to die". How dare I impose my beliefs on others. Some will proclaim I am an opponent of individual freedom. Others will proclaim I want to undermine autonomy. This makes good fodder for debate. Typical others thoroughly enjoy such a debate. A perfect example of such a "good natured debate" can be found the edited volume Cognitive Disability and its Challenge to Moral Philosophy. Read Chapter 22 and the exchange between Eva Kittay, Jeff McMahon, and Peter Singer that illustrates we are talking about a two tiered morality in which some lives have more value than others. I know this two tiered system all too well. Most of my life typical others have made it abundantly clear my life is inherently less. Paralysis is a fate worse than death. My body in Davis estimation has been entombed. This viewpoint is wildly wrong. I know this. Liz Carr knows this. My paralyzed peers know this. My blind and deaf friends know this. Our ability to thrive in the face of a myriad of bodily deficits should be celebrated as human adaptation at its finest. Instead, we get the message loud and clear. We are inherently less human. We are a burden. We are a drain on limited health care resources. All things considered, it would be in the best interest of society if we did live. This is couched in polite language of course. Everyone is kind to the handicapped. We cripples are special. We have your best interests in mind I am told. When I hear these words, "we have your best interests in mind", I am certain of one thing: I shudder in fear and get as far away as humanly possible from the person that uttered those dangerous words. Believe me, I can take care of myself. I have thrived in a hostile world for over 35 years. Don't be fooled by emotional rhetoric surrounding the right to die. See it for what it is. Needlessly premature death to lives worth living.
Peace recognizes that legalizing and now promoting assisted suicide will effect the attitudes towards people with disabilities. The Betsy Davis campaign is part of a plan to turn assisted suicide from a criminal act of medical killing to a cultural "avant garde" act.

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