Tuesday 22 July 2014

Opposing the Right To Kill Us Bill

Lord Falconer's Right To Die Bill (I prefer the more accurate Right to Kill Us) was debated in the Lords on Friday, and disabled people were out in force as part of the Not Dead Yet campaign against the bill, which seemed to surprise many non-disabled people.

That our opposition to a bill undermining our right to live is a surprise to many non-disabled people is not, unfortunately, surprising to us, but it is an ample illustration of why society is not mature enough in its attitude to disability for us to sleep soundly with a Right to Kill Us law approaching the Statute Book.

Just by coincidence on Friday I also came across this BBC article: A Point of View: Happiness and disability which reflects on non-disabled society's inability to comprehend that people can be simultaneously disabled and happy (and indeed happy to be disabled, I know I'm happier and a better person for the disability experience). The article gives it a name, the Disability Paradox, though I think the Normie Paradox fits better, it is after all the normie populace holding paradoxical views in the face of our evidence. And that's what makes putting the Right to Kill Us into their hands so dangerous. Normie society thinks that being disabled is a literal fate worse than death - just think of the phrase 'I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair' - and is so convinced of that fact they don't hear our message when we tell them otherwise, our personal experience is written off because it doesn't fit their worldview. We see a similar phenomenon at work when polls show that non-disabled society as a whole believes that the rate of disability benefit fraud is 27%, not the actual 0.7%. Normies are predisposed to believe the worst of disability, because they have been brought up to believe that disability is intolerable and somehow shameful - I made the transition to disabled as an adult, so when it comes to Normie attitudes, been there, done that, had to fight my way out the other side.

This society-wide delusion about disability makes a Right to Kill Us bill doubly dangerous. Not only are people with acquired disability pre-programmed to consider their situation intolerable, making a neutral attitude towards their disability something they have to struggle to achieve, but, worse, non-disabled people are then pre-programmed to disregard what we say about how we feel. This creates a scenario where someone becomes disabled, enters the normal grieving process primed to regard their situation as intolerable and worried they will be 'a burden', because that's what they have been told disabled people are, and because they simply haven't had time to learn all the coping techniques that make managing a disability easier in the long term than the short term. Meanwhile all the people around them don't just hold the same views, but are pre-programmed to disbelieve them if they happen to say they are happy. If an emotionally vulnerable person is surrounded by people who believe their situation is intolerable, and that they would be better off dead, then there is a clear danger that they will internalise that view. If a Right to Die bill is on the Statute Books, then that provides an easy exit from a situation they and everyone else regards as intolerable. If there is no Right to Die, then they will be forced to confront their new reality and eventually, hopefully, join the vast majority of disabled people in realising they can still be happy with their lives. 

As the impetus to take advantage of a Right to Die comes from a society-wide flaw and the pressures disabled people experience as a result, that's why I prefer to label it as a Right to Kill Us. They might be unconscious of it, but it is normie pressures that push disabled people towards euthanasia. (And unfortunately some of them are conscious of it, and happy to embrace that, one of the disabled people I follow on twitter reported being urged to kill himself by a complete stranger while I was sitting outlining this blog).

Supporters of a Right to Kill Us might argue that the Falconer Bill does not provide for the scenario I have outlined; it insists that the person invoking it be terminally ill, but similar provisions were built into the Dutch and Belgian laws, and are now regularly ignored, with Belgian even allowing euthanasia of children. Equally it is clear that we are at the top of a slippery slope, none of the flagship cases used by the pro-Right-to-Die campaign would fall within the Falconer Bill's criteria, meaning the pressure to extend its remit already exists, even before it is law. Dignity in Dying denies it advocates extending the law beyond terminal illness, yet some of its patrons have truly radical views on how far we should go, with Professor Anthony 'A.C.' Grayling advocating on their website for assisted dying in cases of "painful or undignified unrelievable illness" which is so general as to cover pretty much all disability, certainly it would have covered me during the years when I was spending several hours a day curled up in agony, yet there were times I was both curled up in agony, and howling with laughter, pain and happiness are not incompatible - and isn't 'undignified' such a revealing insight into how he views disability itself.

The tragic irony in all this is that I do support the concept of a right to die in terminal illness, I just don't believe we can safely implement it while society holds, and advocates, such a flawed, negative view of disability. And that's why I oppose giving society the Right to Kill Us.

No comments:

Post a Comment