Joe's Not Dead Yet

The Right to Die has been discussed within the disability community for years. It gave birth to the “Not Dead Yet” movement. As a person with a disability who’s been around for a long time I’ve heard both sides of the discussion. It started when countries like Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands legalized assisted suicide... At that point statistics started focusing on the high percentages of how many people with disabilities decided to end their lives as opposed to people without disabilities. The percentage I think at that time was approximately 17%.

This gave heated debate between people who felt it was their choice to die and no one else’s. Others felt people with disabilities were being made to feel they were burdens to their families and society. I don’t think there was an argument, at that point, that before someone chose assisted suicide all options had been considered. Years ago there were no programs like disability housing, PCAs, the medical field hadn’t been as up-to-date with medications allowing longevity or minimization of insufferable side effects people were asked to endure.

Flash Forward – I believe fewer people with disabilities tend to lean towards assisted suicide because many medications and support services have changed for the better. That’s not to say people don’t believe, “it’s my life and I’ll do what I want”. However, that can be said by anyone with or without a disability. The.difference (in my opinion) is today people have the services in place to make their lives worth living...That not to say. People with disabilities shouldn’t have that choice but other alternatives should be considered. I think people be allowed intensive counseling figuring out why someone wants to die, and whether or not someone can accept living with a disability. Being unable to live with a disability is not a reason to die but again in our world where freedom of choice is our mantra.

As you can see it’s a difficult choice for people on either side of the fence. And there are the unspoken realities of people’s arrangements with their own physicians, caretakers, and hospice workers who can provide the same outcome.

Now this argument has been spun on its head because of the COVID 19 pandemic. It’s not a choice of whether or not someone chooses for themselves whether or not life is worth living. It’s the medical facilities, available equipment, and medical staff that are deciding whose lives are worth saving. It’s come down to the hospital deciding how many ventilators they have and who does the medical staff choose to get the ventilator.

Our right to die has been usurped by “whose lives are worth saving?” I believe that’s why there is an increase in legislation giving people with disabilities the right to make their own decisions. Instead, it’s the cowardice of the medical world not admitting they’re the ones deciding who lives and who dies. The increased legislation is a smokescreen. But I’m just an old guy with a disability that’s been around and has lived on both sides of the argument to live or die.

-Joe

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