As the House of Commons vote on the First Reading of Rob Marris' Assisted Dying bill comes near, I feel it is time for another article on what is a very important topic for me. While the bill is aimed at those at the end of their lives, there is a long term consequence for those of us born impaired, who could have their lives threaten before they have even started in the name of eugenics.
I want to remind people of just ten of many myths that are being used by supporters of assisted suicide to convince the public and MPs that they have the moral high ground. These myths can be easily dispelled by facts and it is the truth that helps us expose the issue for what it is.
1. It is just about terminal illness, not disabled people
Many supporters are highly critical of disabled people like myself implying Assisted dying is about us, insisting it is just for people with terminal illnesses. In reality, the lines between impairment, sickness, illness and disability are quite blurred, and I fear the bill is just stage one of what supporters really want.
2. Terminal illness is easy to define and diagnose
It is not possible to accurately diagnose how long someone with a terminal illness has to live. Too often, people have been given 6 months to live, when they actually live years or decades. I was given a few days to live when I was born, 41 years ago!
3. The proposed bill would have helped Tony Nicklinson
Tony did not have a terminal illness but a progressive condition, and his desire to end his life would not be possible if the bill became law, suggesting future legislation would be proposed when it became publicly acceptable.
4. The proposed bill will stop the 'need' for Dignitas
Dignitas in Switzerland has far broader criteria on the people they will help to die, with little safeguards as a private service. Further legislation and public debate would be required to enable this level of compassionate murder to happen in the UK.
5. Assisted Suicide should be a choice
Suicide in the average population is legally and morally regarded as something which should be prevented, to the point someone can be sectioned and forcibly provided treatment if they try to commit suicide. Why does the debate change when we discuss people with physical impairments and health issues? The idea of a choice free from outside pressures is ridiculous.
6. Assisted Suicide is an act of compassion
In some countries, Assisted Suicide involves being provided 100 lethal tablets, which must be opened and swallowed without outside assistance, taking hours or days, similar to the actions of a drug mule. Not only is this method inaccessible to many candidates, but is this really a compassionate way to die?
7. People only oppose assisted suicide for religious reasons
I am an atheist and for me, this has nothing to do with religion. This is about the equality of treatment, respect and opportunity. If you want assisted dying, lets scrap services like the Samaritans, and ensure everyone who wants to die for any old reason is supported to do so.
8. Assisted Suicide will stop unnecessary suffering
There is a lot of suffering in the world due to poverty, abusive families, war, social background and so on. Why do we only consider killing people when their supposed suffering, as judged by others, is related to their health? Should the service be provided to people suffering debt or unemployment?
9. The general public want assisted suicide
I think what the general public really wants, including myself, is for people to have a pain-free death whenever possible. This involves providing good quality end of life care as a legal right, not assisted suicide, and the public is being misinformed on this.
10. Many Disabled People are better off dead
No one is going to admit this is what they think, but this is what is at the heart of the matter. Illness and Disability has been socially constructed as a form of abnormality to assist the norm to believe they are healthy and invincible to the vulnerabilities we all experience. Support for assisted suicide comes from people's own fears of becoming abnormal.
Fundamentally, the bill is an emotional reaction to the deep rooted prejudice people have to those who are sick or impaired. Supporters do not want you to understand the facts as they feel they can simply pull your heart strings to get their own way.