(Editor’s Note – you can read this article at the Not Dead Yet UK site – that version includes a couple of links absent here. Click title to go to original article. Please read to the end – I’ve added a couple of links of my own on similar issues we’ve dealt with in the U.S.)
Have you heard of the new Disabled Activists for Dignity in Dying? And the interesting claim that 75% of disabled people support assisted suicide/euthanasia? Is that really true?
And why should DiD feel there is even any need for a ‘disability voice’ FOR euthanasia? There is no special pleading necessary for disabled people under their proposed law. Or are they arguing for disability rights for euthanasia? That makes no sense.
DiD have always claimed their campaign is not to change the law for disabled people, but for those with only a few weeks or months to live.
Therefore, is DiD really a lobby for assisted suicide for all disabled people and sick people, rather than people who are very sick and soon to die?
Who are these activists?
It is true they are all disabled people. However they are individuals with a point of view, not representatives of any Disabled People’s Organisation. For example, this new arm of the rather aggressive lobby DiD, is led by wheelchair user Greg Judge, who is listed as a member of staff and is therefore paid by DiD to represent that organisation’s core mission and values.
NDY UK, on the other hand, is a network of disabled people working largely pro bono and who have been mandated to represent the views of many disabled people. There is a difference.
And still, too date, the majority of disabled people I know are either entirely against or have huge reservations about such a law.
The others involved in DiD are Lucy Aliband who impairments resulted from a traumatic road accident; she joined this year after her experience of her mum’s death and like Sally O’Connor, who was diagnosed with the progressive condition MS, is naturally dealing with constant personal changes which will inform her view. The last is Melanie Reid, a journalist who became quadriplegic two years ago and who thinks it makes no economic sense to ‘keep people alive’. You can read her other opinions in the Times (March 27, 2012) where she indulges herself, in name-calling and rant. No evidence, no counter-argument. Melanie Reid refused to engage with me in any kind of honest debate.
This is the basic line up of Disabled Activists for Dignity in Dying. Is it really representative? Just calling them ‘activists’ does not make it so.
Baronesses Campbell and Grey-Thompson, others involved with Not Dead Yet UK, have a long and collective history of representing large numbers of disabled people’s rights through democratic structures and processes.
In the world of legitimate disability activism one thing is clear: we are required to seek the views of large numbers of disabled people in order to speak on their behalf – it is called democracy! That’s what we do.
Therefore I question the legitimacy of this new group of disability activists because of the self-appointed members who are also the spokespeople.
And where has this crazy figure of ‘75% of disabled people want their right to die’ come from? So far as I can make out, DiD source it in the British Social Attitudes Survey 2007.
Now why the BSA 2007 and not say the latest available survey of 2012? The BSA’s own search tool reveals the following results for keywords/phrases: ‘assisted suicide’ 0; euthanasia 0; dignity 0; dying 1 (but that last appears in the report about relationships and nothing to do with assisted suicide).
So if there was any truth in the 2007 survey they are promulgating, have disabled people actually changed their minds away from assisted suicide/euthanasia despite DiD’s best efforts in the intervening period?
BSA conducted 3,248 interviews, and asked 4 questions in the disability ‘section’ of the 2012 survey none of which related to assisted suicide/euthanasia but were about prejudice and whether disabled people can live full lives. The number interviewed was around 2,100 for each of these four.
Think on that – it appears that 3,248 people were interviewed in 2012 – and in 2007 the ‘Number of units: 4,124 cases’ (whether that means actual individuals I don’t know), carried out ‘by computer assisted personal interviewing’ in which ‘some questions are asked regularly, others less often’. The earlier report cites categories like ‘care of the disabled’ – no activism (nothing about us without us) here then.
So 0.003% of the population answered unrelated questions in 2013. Therefore I challenge DiD to explain how they have come up with this figure on 75%. I believe this to be propaganda unless and until proven otherwise.
Now I have raised this question before but I think it bears repeating: what is DiD’s real motive?
By Lord Falconer’s own admission any law would affect about 1,000 people a year. I would bet a great deal that a number of those would have serious second thoughts if offered the very best in palliative and social care.
Any law must, by its nature, be general covering everybody which is why it makes no sense to make a special case for disabled people. The law will be there for not just the fewer than one thousand, but each and every one out of the six hundred thousand who die in the UK every year. So where are the voices of the majority who do not wish to commit suicide? Again, where is the democracy?
I have engaged in many debates against many people, especially on moral questions like this: usually, I can see the integrity of my opposition. I may not agree with them, but I can see how they might have arrived at their position honestly. I can respect them in some ways (depending on the extremity of their moral position).
But how can I or anyone respect an organisation hell-bent on introducing laws that are by their own estimation for a tiny number of people, but who know very well (evidence from Holland, Belgium and Oregon), who know full-well that any such law will mean that innocent people die, and first among equal candidates are disabled people. How can I respect those who use sheer propaganda to bully people into believing them?
What is their real purpose?
(Editor’s note: We’ve had similar issues here in the U.S. with assisted suicide proponents saying, on the one hand, that disability has nothing to with assisted suicide, but finding disabled people to put forward to attempt to counter our message. You can read a description of “Autonomy, Inc” here (note – the leader of the group – Paul Spiers – passed away a short time ago.) In 2011, Compassion and Choices (C&C) published a newsletter claiming that “Key Disability Rights Leaders” support assisted suicide. The only “disability organization” to support assisted suicide is Autonomy, Inc., which was formed as a chapter of Compassion in Dying. We have a response flyer to C & C’s “key disability rights leaders.” You can view a version of the flyer – without pictures – at this link. The complete version is located here, but it downloads directly to your computer when you click on it. We’re trying to fix that.)