WARNING- This piece is simply based on my own personal opinions about recent events regarding assisted suicide and some may find this triggering. Use care and caution when reading.
In light of certain stories that have made the news lately regarding assisted suicide and the atrempts many in the disability community have taken to reach out to said individuals, I have found myself at a crossroads upon which side I take on the issues at hand.
From a barrage of stories of a Paralympion wishing to die after the games, a woman who held her own suicide party under new California law, and the most heated debate of a teenage girl who made a decision to die rather than live with SMA, many people have tried everything in their power to stop them from making these decisions. One such case involves the teen and her family in the latter story having Child Protective Services called and disability rights groups sharing letters to the girl in order to convince her that a life is worth living.
Although the gestures are in good faith and mean well, do we really know the kind of pain these young ladies face everyday? Do we know what goes on in their minds as they take drug after drug and have caregivers do every single task for them, knowing the end can very well be around the corner anyway?
Of course not. We may have similar issues surrounding our own medical needs or personal care issues, not to mention our mental health, whatever it may be. But are we in the same body as them? Do we know what goes on everyday in their lives? Or do we just assume that based off our experiences, we are in the right while leaving them in the wrong.
No two people with disabilities are alike. We may share similar diagnoses and carry the same label as others, but we are all different. We assess our own lives differently. We value life on our own terms and nobody elses, or we simply choose not to, or in the case of me with PTSD, life has a meaning beyond what I see my reality is and I struggle with it. It’s like for example, the misconception of people with Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy as always being happy, when in reality they have feelings the same as everyone else.
We all view our lives differently and if a life in pain is too much for one to take, why can’t they reach out for a way to find inner peace, even if it means going into hospice or having a big shin-dig with a drug cocktail as a night cap? It may not be ideal, but if all options for a pain free or manageable life have been explored and none of them work, why find it humane for them to live if they choose to go a different route?
The cases mentioned above all share a common theme, all of the people involved have terminal and life altering conditions that will lead them into a vegetative state or eventually death.
Now tell me, would a life stuck in a bed hooked up to machines, catheters, and tubes be a life worth living, staring at the celing all day with nothing more to do but wait for nature or a power outage to take its course?
If you said yes it’s a life worth living, I do give you a lot of credit for being braver than me. If given the choice to live or die before I lose all function of my body, I would take death. Not only for myself, but for my family and friends who won’t have to take the burden of caring for me or the insane amount of medical bills that follow.
I understand the fears people have upon this way of thinking. If it were your family member or friend, what would you do? How can you tell if they are indeed serious about dying? I’m almost certain all three of these ladies took those steps with therapists and doctors to prove their desires are real and not just out of depression or pity. I’m sure these feelings were well thought out years in the making and not just some silly impulse.
These feelings are real. And we as a society need to accept that.
There is a difference between suicide based on illness and suicidal thoughts based soley on mental illness.Both carry pain that is unbearable, but mental illness can be treated where as a terminal illness can not.
Although we as a disability community have good intentions, can’t we just stop for a minute and listen to their reasoning? Can we accept the fact that their views on a terminal life are different from our own and allow them to make their choices, however outrageous they may be? We all have different thoughts on what a life is, we should accept what these young ladies chose to do and go about our day. It may not be our cup of tea, but to them, it can lead to their own personal healing that hopefully brings them peace.
If you or a loved one need assistance regarding suicide prevention or are currently in a crisis, click here for a list of suicide hotlines in your area. Or call 1-800-273-TALK to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.