Monday, November 17, 2008

"I'm not selfish for wanting to live"

An excerpt from this article in the UK's Liverpool Daily Post:

Liverpool, United Kingdom: A paralysed Merseyside teacher has spoken of her anger that the growing public sympathy for assisted suicide means she is now seen as ‘selfish’ for wanting to carry on living.

Sue Garner-Jones last night criticised the way seriously disabled people who choose to end their lives are commonly described as ‘courageous’ and ‘selfless’.

Dr Garner-Jones has urged her MP, Southport’s John Pugh – himself a vocal opponent of euthanasia – to lead a campaign in support of people with spinal cord injuries who want to battle on with their lives.

Her plea came as MPs debated whether the law should be changed, so it would no longer be illegal to help terminally ill people to die – so-called ‘mercy killings’.

The issue of euthanasia first returned to the public consciousness when Hunts Cross man Reg Crew flew to Swiss clinic Dignitas in January 2003 to end his suffering from motor neurone disease. His wife Win is a strong supporter of legalising euthanasia.

Ministers were told more than 900 British people a year are getting illegal help to die.

Dr Garner-Jones chose to speak out following the ‘negative response towards disabled people’ made in the press last month after teenage rugby player Daniel James committed suicide. He was left paralysed after an accident and was also helped to die at the Swiss clinic.

Yesterday, Dr Garner-Jones told the Daily Post: “People make their own decisions about how to live their life. But there’s a lot of talk about bravery and courage for people who were opting out of living their lives. I didn’t like the inverse of that.

“To call this action ‘brave’, ‘courageous’ and ‘selfless’ implies that those of us who battle on are ‘cowardly’ and ‘selfish’, which is unfair and untrue.”

Dr Garner-Jones, 53, was paralysed from the chest down and has limited use of only her left hand after a lorry ploughed into her car 34-years-ago.

Now she is a part-time lecturer at Liverpool University and tutors Southport school children in English.

She can only write by clutching a pen with both hands and types her academic papers with a bent piece of wire.

Mr James’s parents said that after being left in a similar tetraplegic state, he was living only a ‘second class existence’.

Attacking the ‘hysteria’ surrounding his case, she warned: “I am seriously concerned that this might have a severely detrimental effect on anyone who lives with disability, or cares for someone in this situation, especially as Mr and Mrs James are referring to his life as a tetraplegic as ‘second class’.”

Although she says Mr and Mrs Jones’s love for their 23-year-old son is unquestioned, she wants to battle against the negative depiction of disability.

Speaking in her Birkdale home, she continued: “Someone who was newly injured, reading that in the papers or hearing someone having so negative views about living a life after a disability – that would be so discouraging to anyone who’d had a recent accident.

“His [Daniel James’s] parents thought they were doing the best for him. there’s no question about their love for him.”

h/t to Second Hand Smoke