Wednesday, November 25, 2015

History: A View From The Wrong Side

Discussing the issue of 'assisted suicide' with almost anyone outside the disability community is a difficult thing to do. There seems to be a general dismissal of the concerns that are being legitimately raised by disability activists and organizations such as Not Dead Yet.

I am, they assure me, 'making myself upset when there is no cause.'

I am, they insist, 'purposely misunderstanding the issue.'

Those that I have spoken to seem to think that, we as disabled people, are a bit addled and prone to upset. Perhaps there's need for a massive PRN that we need to be given, from time to time, to settle down our nerves. I argue, strenuously, and to no effect, that disabled people do see the issue and perhaps see it more clearly than anyone else. When that doesn't work:

I am, they tell me, 'on the wrong side of history.'

For a moment this does silence me. Because they are right. Disabled people have always been on the wrong side of history. We have been left in forests to die, we have been vilified by those who think that we are manifestations of sin, our 'final solution' though seldom acknowledged came first and genocide honed it's skills on our lives in the basement of institutions. We have been sterilized, brutalized, congregated, segregated, persecuted and destroyed. History isn't our friend, you've got me there.

I am, again reassured, that 'this is all in the past.'

When I'm not comforted by this, and when I suggest that past attitudes are influencing present legislation, I'm considered to be, again, 'purposely resistant to the real intent of assisted suicide, which is to end the suffering of people who are terminally ill.'

But that's not true is it? Diane Coleman from Not Dead Yet points out "Under the Canadian Supreme Court ruling, disabled people explicitly qualify for assisted suicide whether or not they are 'terminal'". 

So, just how does the court see people with disabilities? What faith can we put in legislators and law makers and decision makers?

Recently there was a ruling in a case where a teenager was convicted of the murder of a young police officer. During the commission of the crime the teenager became disabled. While you can argue the judges ultimate decision to not imprison the teen, I'm not going to comment on that. It's what the judge said about the young man's life as a wheelchair user. Justice Alex Sosna said, "... already serving a life sentence, imprisoned in his wheelchair."

"imprisoned in his wheelchair."

That's what he said. this educated, sophisticated, interpreter of the law and justice maker. His view of disability is the view that has been held of disability from the get go, we are imprisoned and our only release will be ... death. Justice Sosna's ignorance of the life that people with disabilities live is, if the power he has didn't make this so frightening, laughable.

Let me state clearly.

I am not assured or reassured that prejudice will not be part of decision making about our lives and our deaths.

I am very aware that the voice of the disability community is being purposely ignored by those who want laws that make our deaths easy to procure.

I am deeply frightened that one day, some one like Justice Sosna, will have a say over me and my life.


Repeats itself.

Like a demanding child.

Until it's heard.


imfunnytoo said...

Dave, thank you for your post on this. When I blog ged more often I wrote about this frequently. I'm at a loss to understand why otherwise reasonable people do not discern that it will become first cost-effective, and eventually God forbid convenient to pressure us into making this choice or to make the choice for us as a guardian in order to limit not our suffering but the difficulties posed by our continuing existence.

Clairesmum said...

When I read in one of your most recent posts about the language in the Canadian law, I finally "got it" about your concern. My work has been in the care of older people who often wish to stop receiving aggressive medical interventions and have to fight hard to do so...and I am uncomfortable about the idea of promoting assisted suicide or active aid in dying. I am very much a proponent of good hospice care which is about each person's life story and wishes...not those of providers or families. But I know how hard it is to make good individualized care happen. We used to just put dementia patients in mental institutions and chain them to the wall, not so long ago. Will try to step up my ability to help bring this awareness to the people I talk to.

Anonymous said...

I find it deeply disturbing that someone like that could ever have a say over my little X.


Deb said...

This is a very real concern. I work for a company that provides staffing for adult foster care homes. On numerous occasions when an individual is admitted to the hospital we find the doctor has placed a DNR (do not resuscitate) order on the file. The doctor does not know the individual, they are not legally allowed to place a DNR, they just make a decision based on the disability they see in front of them. More then once, when asked why the DNR is on the file their response is "who would want to live like this" or "life isn't worth living like this" or "I just assumed". We have had to get resident rights and adult protective services involved on several occasions. No one should be making this decision for another person.