I’m going out on a limb here to talk about one of those controversial issues that tend to get skated around a lot in disabilities communities: voluntary euthanasia (VE), also known as physician-assisted suicide.
Last year, I met someone who was severely disabled by an accident. I found out that he had wanted to end his own life using VE, but legalities prevented him from following through. I instantly felt angry that this man thought he had no choice but to end his life because of his newfound disability. It made me want to get up on my high horse and scream, “Disability is not the end of the world!”
It took me a long time to realize that this man’s choice was his own to make, and although I chose a different path than him, that does not mean I should have attacked his decision. VE is a complex issue with many different viewpoints to consider.
Many debates are sparked between “pro-life” religious fundamentalists and secular progressives who believe we all deserve the right to choose the manner in which we die — especially those who are terminally ill. The latter group sees it as a basic human right. On the other side of the fence, most, if not all, religions (fundamentalist or not) believe all human life to be of value, so they firmly reject the notion of suicide.
Putting aside the moral implications of depression and suicide, we also see disability groups and political organizations picking sides in the fight, arguing that the legalization of VE will mean the death of disability rights. The Australian Family Association wrote, “Incurably or profoundly disabled people as well as elderly people also often qualify for having their lives deemed ‘not worth living’ whether or not they have asked, or can ask, to be killed.” While the truth of these statements may be questionable (no proof is offered to substantiate them) in today’s world, there is no denying the possibility of it becoming a reality at some point.