There is need for caution but disabled people deserve the right to dieby Lucy Webster / July 21, 2014 / Leave a comment
Lord Falconer’s bill to legalise assisted dying should be passed—and extended from those with less than six months to live to any disabled person capable of deciding to die.
Of course, for me this debate is unnervingly personal; as Baroness Campbell, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, told a packed House of Lords on Friday, “this bill is about me.” Baroness Campbell opposes the bill, and for reasons I can relate to. She fears that disabled people, feeling themselves to be a burden on their families, will choose to die sooner than they otherwise would like.
She worries too that the measures will be abused, allowing people to murder disabled people and cover their deeds up as assisted suicide—or at least to pressure them in to dying. The bill, campaigners argue, devalues the lives of disabled people. And, they argue that a government may see assisted dying as a good reason to cut funding for care.
Maybe. It is, I admit, hard to say how we can avoid these pitfalls. If and when a bill is passed, a panel of medical, psychological and legal experts will need to hammer out detailed regulations. But the need for caution does not mean we should not act. There is more to this debate than practicalities.
I am not trying to write off the immense mental and physical suffering a severely disabled person may experience, and how this may make their lives unbearable. Each person will experience things differently, but few will want your pity, even if they ask for your compassion. We cannot judge the quality of someone’s life—only they can do that. Instead I am here to show you that the ability to control the manner of your death is as much a right as the right to live. In a liberal society, we cannot deny that right to anyone, whether they need assistance or not.