Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Calgary Autistic woman (MV) is a victim of the "right to die" movement.

Update: MV continues to refuse food and fluids now for 15 days.

Meghan Schrader
By Meghan Schrader

Meghan is an autistic person who is an instructor at E4 - University of Texas (Austin) and an EPC-USA board member.

This is a follow-up post about MV, the young autistic woman who is now starving and dehydrating herself to death with the doctors helping her to die.

In Alex’s recent article about MV, he asserted that MV is a victim of the "right to die" movement, and that is true. However, I know that proponents, and probably MV, would argue that this stance deprives MV of “agency” and “infantilizes” her. However, that’s not the right way to look at the argument that MV is a victim.

What that argument about victimization really means is that autonomy is complicated. For instance, anorexia is a complex mental health disorder that can result from trauma and co-morbid psychiatric conditions. However, it’s also a well-known fact that rates of anorexia are higher in the United States and Western Europe, where people are inundated with media representations of razor thin, perfectly proportioned bodies. MV lives in a culture where MAiD is romanticized constantly. Therefore, it’s not shocking that MV has concluded, “Man, I really need to kill myself. It’s the right thing to do.”

Even though MV is an independent adult, she is being oppressed by cultural forces outside her control. MV lives in a country where MAiD is sold like the newest IPhone, and she lives in a culture where jobs, suicide prevention programs, education and community are not freely available to disabled people. That’s the culture MV lives in, and so she has experienced circumstances that have led her to consider suicide. That means that MV has experienced oppression. That’s pretty much what Alex and I mean when we assert that MV is a “victim.”

The intersection of some autistic tendencies with Canada’s current culture can also be understood as making MV a victim. I cannot know exactly what role the autistic tendency to fixate is playing in MV’s decision to kill herself. However, people with autism and ADHD, do have a higher tendency to fixate, it’s one of the medical symptoms of both disorders. So, I think it’s reasonable to suspect that fixation is playing a role in MV’s decisions, and that makes her a victim of a culture that wants to push her toward her fixation on suicide.

I’m sure that like other MAiD enthusiasts, MV would proclaim that she is not “fixated” because she has made her choice based on various concrete facts. But, the use of facts to make a choice to kill oneself does not change the definition of suicide. As an autistic person I can say from experience that it is possible to be “rational” and “fixated” at the same time. Fixation can make it difficult for the fixated person to process all the facts about important situations, and so people can wind up being victimized by their own brains. In addition to living in an ableist culture, MV did not get to choose whether to have impairments that cause people to hyper-fixate. Hence, it’s reasonable to understand MV’s choice as a result of her being bullied; by the intersection of her impairment with a culture that promotes death. That makes MV a victim of her circumstances, even if she is still technically capable of making her own choices.

Lastly, Canada’s current culture is making it difficult for people like MV to understand that some choices make a person a victim of themselves. Yes, MV is generally capable of making adult decisions. The disability rights movement often fights for disabled people to be able to make choices-the choice to get married, the choice to have sex, the choice to rent an apartment, the choice to become educated, etc. Therefore, the disability justice movement generally acknowledges that disabled people can be accountable for our choices like anyone else. In the spirit of accountability, I feel led to note that the choice to kill yourself is actually bad.

Taking your own life is an objectively bad choice, especially when your family is pleading with you not to. MAiD organizations have used millions of dollars to spread the message that MAiD somehow involves only the individual and their body. But ripping your family apart so that you can assert your autonomy and use death to solve your suffering is solipsistic. MV may be able to make the autonomous choice to kill herself, but that would make MV and others victims of her own bad choices. I say that with love and compassion, but it’s the truth-sometimes people make choices that harm themselves and others.

I really hope that MV somehow experiences the right set of circumstances to make her feel like she doesn’t need to die by suicide by dehydration; circumstances that would make her experience joi de vivre. I hope that something inspires her to eat and drink. I hope that she is able to consider how killing herself is going to affect others. I wish that people like MV weren’t being victimized by a culture that oppresses disabled people so much that it urges them to die by suicide, and I hope that disabled people everywhere are able to live in a better world very soon. 

That’s what Alex and I mean when we say that MV is a “victim.”


Anonymous said...

Yours sincerely
Bro. John-Thevanathan

KathleenLundquist said...

Meghan, this is so very well said! You and your perspective are a great treasure to us who continue the fight for disability rights all over the world.

Anonymous said...

Excellent job, Meghan! I have often thought that the solipsism you speak of, which is very much related to the concept of “radical autonomy”, must be countered with an understanding of the victim’s context. The tendency toward anti-contextualism in our modern era, I believe, lies at the root of the obsession with autonomy. The pro-death camp wants to believe that people are isolated islands, unaffected by the context of their culture or even the people physically around them. This, in spite of the fact that humans are social organisms, like bees. Can a bee be fully autonomous from its group? Of course not. But that’s the premise upon which the death lobby constructs its ideology. This piece of writing will go in my pantheon of super great articles concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide. - Thomas Lester

Anonymous said...

Another good article Megan. The contrast between this 'victim' and another woman I heard about yesterday is huge. This woman has cancer that has ravaged most of body, including her spine, which is basically shot. She can only sit up in a corset. However, not long ago she could only lie in bed. Thanks to her faith, church and husband, she attends Bible studies online, was able to access the 80 hours of free physio (to which she has a right but no doctors told her about), fought for an electric wheelchair (and her husband managed to procure it), and she is now riding it in her garden

Anonymous said...

I didn't finish my comment, something slipped and it went to publish) . This lady is in such a good psychological condition that the doctors agreed to treat her cancer, even though normally they would just let her die because she seems terminal. She is full of joy and is an amazing example to many. The human spirit, when combined with God's Spirit is an unbeatable combination. The devil knows that and divides and discourages us in order to destroy us. There is power in prayer. Pray for MV!