The very heart of the argument for assisted suicide/euthanasia (AS/E) is that an individual may be better off dead than disabled.
The fact that this argument can be made in respectable public forums demonstrates just how ableist this society is. How deeply the severely abled fear and loathe those of us who live with disability.
Ableism, like racism and sexism, is an ugly prejudice that society holds towards its minority members.
What does ableism look like? First you exclude us from nearly all public life and especially gainful employment and instead put us ‘on the dole.’ Then, periodically, you cut those supports from under us or make us try to prove that we’re ‘worthy’ of such supports. You openly stare at us and your comments and prurient questions make public spaces hostile. If we object, you accuse us of being maladjusted or just not being able to take a joke. A disabled man in the Netherlands is constantly told that it is ‘his fault’ that he lives with a disability; after all, he could kill himself. Where AS/E has become the norm, disabled people are even more outcast.
Our lives are seen as not worth living, but these are the lives we have.
This ideology, which we call BDTD (Better Dead Than Disabled), permeates ableist society, but even more deeply infects the medical system, and the more society in general accepts it, the more we encounter it every time we have to deal with medicine. My husband, who was nearly 80 and disabled, was brought to the hospital by ambulance after a heart attack. Until I arrived and started raising the roof, they put him in a dark room in the back. He should have been connected to an EKG and given aspirin, and IV lines should have been established. But because he was disabled, he received none of this. They assumed he’d want to die. Thankfully, we had years after that, but if I’d been held up in traffic? Would their killing him have been prosecuted? Investigated?
Are you really wanting to create this ‘special class’ of people who can be killed and no one prosecuted? A class whose deaths won’t even be investigated? Is your ableism so strong that you’d change the law to allow others to kill us without consequence? That is what happens in Oregon. Thomas Middleton’s death was not prosecuted. Did he ingest the poison willingly or was his death part of the real estate fraud for which his ‘caregiver’ was prosecuted? It’s already all too easy for those who would inherit, or steal, our property to arrange our deaths. Do you really want to make it easier? In US jurisdictions, assisted suicide laws give immunity to those who kill so long as they choose their victims from among the old, ill and disabled.
Before you say that this isn’t about disability, it’s only for those who are imminently dying, let me remind you of two things: First, physicians are notoriously bad at predicting when we’ll die. Oregon state data show that people outlive their 6 month prognosis every year; one lived for 1009 days. (2016 report, page 11) I’m 10 years past my last expiration date, and more than 60 years past the first, and still going strong. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there has never been an instance where this is legalized that it hasn’t expanded far beyond those at whom it was originally aimed, sometimes with breathtaking speed. Canada is already moving to use it on people who are not imminently dying and they legalized it just a year ago and, in the Netherlands, even those who advocated for it say that it is out of control.
Because the argument is based on BDTD, all who are considered disabled are at risk.