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July 24, 2017 | by  | in Token Cripple |
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Token Cripple

End of Life Bill

The right to die has recently been introduced by David Seymour’s proposed End of Life Bill. The issue of assisted dying has long been a contentious one for the disability community. I have heard compelling arguments from disabled people on both sides. For all these people and their non-disabled counterparts, the debate is deeply emotive.  

My own position is no different. I am a disabled person, poor mental health is a feature of my life, and my friend’s lives, and I have lost people to suicide. These are some of the things that colour my objection to the legislation. I also have concerns about the particular way in which life with a disability is often seen as less worth living, too difficult to abide, when in fact value can be found in them.

Of course, there are distinctions between the experiences of disability and terminal illness, distinctions between an open discussion about the wish to die and the often private battle of suicide. The Bill has reportedly been carefully drafted to avoid cases of coercion. Personally, I am unsure if this will be enough in cases where a disabled person cannot communicate independently.

But perhaps I should put aside my misgivings about medical care being just as subjective as any other field, a field limited by what we currently know about the singular experience of death. After all, it is a choice.

Choice is the very thing that bothers me. That life and death are framed in the language of neo-liberal ideology. My concern is that a Bill like this will serve to individualise and isolate people further. That it will inform how — or not — we choose to build community. Disabled people are already isolated by a system which emphasises independence and has a limited, economics based view of what constitutes a worthy contribution to society. We will benefit more from a society which values the collective, values needing support and caring for each other, not this final “choice”.

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