Aug 242012

There is a persistent cynical claim that changing the law to permit assisted dying would diminish disabled people. (Variations include “it would make disable people more  vulnerable” and “it would suggest that disabled peoples’ lives are less valuable“).

It would empower disabled people, and enable them determine for themselves the value of their lives!

The argument from “Ability”

Able-bodied people can die if they want to. (Suicide is legal). They have autonomy.

Tony Nicklinson’s fate demonstrated his dependence on others and the unwillingness of the law to help him overcome this particular aspect of his disability. His own opinions were considered virtually worthless, “simply” because he lacked the ability to act upon them.

We should say “despite your disability your opinions remain valuable and our enlightened society will help you achieve your objectives”. (As we typically try to do for most other aspects of disability).

The argument from “Status”

For most of us, we would answer the question “whose life is it anyway?” with “the person living it!”

Tony Nicklinson’s fate demonstrated that the law had “stolen” his ownership of his life from him, leaving him to beg and plead about his life. In effect, “the state” now owned his life. Do disabled people really want the state to own their life? What else might the state do with it in future?

We should say “despite your disability, you still own your life, not the state”. The law should say “if in this situation you haven’t ask for help to die, you want to stay alive, and the state has no right to override that“. (There are cases where life has become meaningless; I am not talking about those).

We need to make it clear that the disabled still have the right to determine for themselves the value of their life, from “worth plenty” to “negative value”!

Further reading in this blog

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