Skip to comments.Are we better off dead than disabled?
Posted on 12/15/2011 3:58:50 PM PST by wagglebee
The perils of the social devaluation of people include legal assisted suicide and euthanasia
It is not uncommon to hear people without disabilities and people who have recently acquired a disability say they would rather be dead than disabled.
Although politically incorrect, embedded perceptions that life with disability is full of suffering and indignity promote the idea that it's a death sentence. Able-ist social conditioning equates disability with pain, frailty, incapacity, and poor quality of life. It views persons with disabilities as problems that need to be fixed.
The 'problem' of disability
I would argue the "problem" of disability lies more in external social, physical, attitudinal, and architectural barriers.
I am considered legally blind. If you hand me something in 12 point font, I can't read it. You might say I am disabled because I can't see. However, if you give me a document in large print, I no longer have a problem. An external change resolves a biological "shortcoming."
At times I use a wheelchair. I am "disabled" by the environment around me: stairs, curbs with no access cuts, and doors that don't open automatically. However, when changes are made externally, I become self-reliant.
Negative images devaluing persons with disabilities infiltrate literature, movies, news media, and television. We are portrayed, at best, as having lives no one wants, and at worst, as freaks or deviants. Rarely are we depicted as empowered people with much to contribute to the world around us.
Unfortunately, many people who acquire a disability internalize able-ist perspectives. They see themselves as being of less value, rather than as people who have needs which, when accommodated, help them enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as every citizen.
Dignity and wellbeing are mistakenly equated with being able-bodied. Conversely, illness or disability is associated with lack of dignity. Dignity, a key component in actions before the courts that seek to legalize euthanasia, is often defined by the notion that something like incontinence indicates a lack of dignity because it is perceived as a loss of autonomy.
Although most people would not choose to be incontinent, toileting needs can be met through the assistance of another person or a disposable incontinence product. (Please note I'm not calling them diapers; infantilizing the people who use them only reduces their dignity.) Somehow needing help to go to the bathroom is considered to have a greater detrimental impact on dignity than relying on other supports.
Many people use eyeglasses. However wearing spectacles doesn't lessen one's dignity or even one's rightful place in the world. The need to don an invisible incontinence product, on the other hand, seems a good reason to encourage someone to end it all.
Able-ist attitudes permeate our politics. Canada's current immigration policy restricts persons with disabilities from immigrating to our country. It could deny someone like renowned scientist Stephen Hawking an opportunity to immigrate to Canada.
I admire Hawking. He has not succumbed to the idea that because he has ALS he has nothing left to offer. If a man who has made such significant contributions can't "make the cut," what message does that send? It says we don't really belong because we're not able-bodied.
Medical practitioners are not immune from acquiring these negative perceptions.
Years ago I initiated a conversation with an endocrinologist about the possibility of pregnancy and how it would affect a woman with my disabilities. I wanted to have children, but also wanted to be responsible by getting fair and balanced information from an expert.
My doctor's response was something like, "If people like you stopped having children, we could eliminate this disease from the face of the earth within a few generations."
I don't know if he considered that eliminating "the disease" also meant eliminating people like me. For him, the problem was inside me, and following that logic, I was the undesirable component.
The unworthy are at risk
If we are tacitly acknowledged as unworthy, we are at risk. At times of fiscal restraint, we can experience discrimination when medical budgets are limited.
It's very difficult to access information about how health care resources are allocated, but there is much evidence to support the idea that they are determined by measuring our value using subjective criteria like "quality of life."
If medical practitioners don't have the direct experience of living with disability, and if they don't make extraordinary efforts to explore beyond the bio-medical models available in med student curricula, how can doctors ever have anything but an able-ist evaluation of someone's quality of life?
If our quality of life is viewed as being narrowed, we risk having our health options shrink. If our health options are taken away, or never presented in the first place, our very existence is threatened.
It is especially when we are coming to terms with new conditions, changing conditions, or physical and psychological pain that we need to be reminded that we matter, that we are worth something.
Our dignity is inherent
Our dignity is inherent. We have dignity because we are human. Our dignity is framed within the context of our sense of, contribution to, and interaction with our communities, not about what does or doesn't work in our bodies.
If Hawking can add value to our society, we all can. We are only limited by our able-ist imaginations.
If assisted suicide or euthanasia is legalized, it could be devastating for persons with disabilities. Medical practitioners might never question the desire of someone who has acquired a disability to be euthanized, because they wouldn't consider the possibility that the requester is experiencing difficulty adjusting to a difficult change.
Realistically, acquiring a disability is about living with loss, which often requires profound adjustment and supports, but so does losing a child. Do we hand grieving parents a hypodermic of lethal medicine and say, "This must be unbearable; here's a way to end your suffering"?
Canadians seem enthusiastic about promoting suicide prevention, but is that only for able-bodied people? When we face the social message that it's better to be dead than disabled, the option of assisted suicide and euthanasia, rather than providing supports to help us live fully, puts our very lives at risk.
Rhonda Wiebe is a disability rights advocate from Winnipeg. She co-chairs the Ending of Life Ethics committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and serves on the Board of Directors of Not Dead Yet. She has lived with a disability since she was 13.
you are an excellent living witness to faith. Thanks for posting, and thanks for being.
So, you consider it a "burden" to care for a sick family member?
What would your preferred solution be?
Do you support euthanasia? YES or NO
I notice you just joined FR within the last year, perhaps you weren't aware that this is a PRO-LIFE forum.
“At some point we all must ask ourselves how much moral/ethical/legal burden are we willing to place upon our wives/husbands/children in these end of life decisions ?”
I love the arrogance of your post. You start by saying “heres another side” like none of us have experienced anything like your situation. Lol! Think again.
I dont consider caring for an ill family member a moral/ethical/legal burden, and I will raise my daughter to feel the same. You need to check yourself. Sounds like you’re advocating the pillow treatment for your MIL.
Yes, that and their “duty to die/you’re a burden” crap they spoon feed to the chronically ill. Same old story every time
Moral relativism is such a sickness in our culture. I just pray these people are enlightened & see their errors.
And Im facing the same issues myself, it seems !
So who determines dignity ? For my MIL, it seems it devolves upon her daughters. I can only be supportive. In my case, Ive already made certain determinations based upon defined presenting conditions.
And you propose what? Killing her as a solution?
At some point we all must ask ourselves how much moral/ethical/legal burden are we willing to place upon our wives/husbands/children in these end of life decisions?
Murdering an "inconvenient" person is moral?
It's not a moral burden to care for someone who is ill. It is a moral burden to have the murder of them on your conscience. Does that give dignity to a person, or just reduce them to a commodity that you dispose of when it's no longer useful?
“Here is a test to find whether your mission here on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
Well said! Bravo!
I always say this to the pro-murder couched as death with dignity morons and they always chicken out:
Lead by example.
For some reason, they don’t want to.
They’re content to hold that idea until such time as their life is ‘inconvenient’ for someone else.
Until then, whenever someone is inconvenient to THEM, oops, oh well.
So stop couching murder in the name of personal convenience with flowery terms like “death with dignity” because there’s no such thing.
Kitty got yer tongue?
I LIKE that.
Thank you for sharing your story, Jeff. A blessed and Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Thank you for sharing your story, Wordkraft. Thanks to all of you.
When your wife was an infant, her mother cared for her. Should she do less? Our lives have a symmetry.
I read it elsewhere just a day ago. I love it! Nice and precise.
Of course, because if we had, we'd all think like them, right?
How little they know.....
Well said! A disability of the body is external to our real selves, like wearing a torn shirt; crippled consciousness and conscience is infinitely worse in degree and in kind.
But infants respond to mom’s affection ! >PS
But in most cases we died long before degenerative disease presented ! Moreover, we lacked the means to prolong the lives of the afflicted for as long as is now possible.
In every instance there’s always cost/benefit ratio to be computed. Denying prolongation of respiration hasn’t a “cost” is pissing to windward with the expectation those to leeward will agree with the results ! >PS
So troll, this is now the second post on this thread where you have endorsed death panels.
You have also refused to respond to any of the replies to your earlier disgusting post.
Free Republic is a PRO-LIFE forum and you are endorsing death panels for the elderly and disabled. You are clearly in the wrong place.
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