I couldn't articulate my feelings - and got into a bit of an argument with Grandmother over the whole thing- until I was directed to the website for Not Dead Yet by a Professor for a school assignment for my Disability and Human Rights class and I started to read the articles and commentaries there. After spending a lot of time reading all the info on their site I felt relieved that I wasn't being paranoid and bizarre about the whole thing and thought I would try to put into words just exactly why I think legalizing physician assisted suicide is a terrible idea.
The health care system in this country is a for-profit endeavor. Health insurance companies and executives make money, a lot of money, and if people who have been diagnosed terminally ill are given help to kill themselves then a lot of insurance companies are going to save a lot of money by not having to cover costs for pain management, hospice care and other care designed to make the patient comfortable at the end of their life.
Now all health insurance companies make their profits by collecting premiums and denying whatever benefit coverage they can get away with - end of life or not. Personally I feel that the entire system is immoral, no one should profit by preventing another person from recieving medical care. But it strikes me as being even worse for an insurance company to cover the cost for a doctor to kill a terminal patient - regardless of the phrase 'physician assisted suicide' it is a doctor giving their patient a treatment that results in the patient's death, it is the doctor killing their patient - and increase their bottom line by doing so.
People with disabilities are discriminated against every day in this country. In the media we get the message that it would be better to be dead than to be disabled. People like Professor Peter Singer say that parents should be allowed to kill their children in infancy if they are expected to grow up with disabilities for the simple reason that infants are "non-persons". He also says it should be legal to kill older "non-persons with disabilities". Ironically Professor Singer is also a well-known animal rights activist. Apparently "non-persons" are different from animals and shouldn't get the benefit of the doubt that animals do.
Please read this article by Harriet McBryde Johnson about her conversation with Professor Singer. It is ten thousand times better written than anything I could ever hope to write and is truly enlightening.
In a society that devalues the lives of the disabled, a policy legalizing physician assisted suicide is truly troubling. I can't say it any better than Diane Coleman does in her op-ed article titled "Disabled Group Objects to 'Dignity' of Assisted Suicide, Doubts Motives"...
"Why, disabled people ask, do we see so many news stories lately about the burdens we impose on our caregivers, and so few articles about the nation's ability to provide the long-term care people really need and want?
If the values of liberty dictate that society legalize assisted suicide, then legalize it for everyone who asks for it, not just the devalued, old, ill and disabled. Otherwise, what looks like freedom is really only discrimination." ~Diane Coleman
This article was published in the Rocky Mountain News on March 19, 2005.
Some of the people I love the most in the whole world are disabled. The implications of legalized physician assisted suicide to them is extremely troubling and scares the shit out of me. No matter how well a law is written, abuses are always possible. Ask any lawyer, social worker or judge. And if we, as a society, begin to believe that it is acceptable for doctors to end patients lives, are we starting down a road towards euthanasia for the disabled, infirm or those who are costing us time, money and effort to care for? Is this a step down that road?
Grandmother is ninety-three and terrified of ending up bedridden for years and years. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Initiative 1000 and has told me many times that if she becomes bedridden, unable to wash or toilet herself or out of her mind from dementia that she wants us to help her end her life. I don't know what I would do if it came to that, but I do know that whatever we - her family - do if such a situation arises, we would do it out of love. It would be the hardest decision any of us would ever have to face in our lives, it would be messy, and it would break our hearts. And that is the way it should be, not as simple as a doctor writing out a prescription.
Suicide should be difficult, Initiative 1000 makes it easier and that scares me.