Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Liz Carr: open letter counsels disabled man against assisted suicide

From the BBC News Magazine:

Noel Martin, a British construction worker who was paralyzed from the neck down after being attacked by neo-Nazis near Berlin 12 years ago, is planning a trip to Switzerland to commit suicide. Broadcaster Liz Carr, who met Carr for a BBC Radio 5 Live report, writes an open letter urging him to think again. Ms Carr herself has a disability and uses a wheelchair. Here is an excerpt:

One of the main problems I have with assisted suicide stories like yours, Noel, is that the media perpetuates the idea that to be disabled or ill must be the greatest tragedy of all. Disability inevitability equals no quality of life.

I know when people read your story, many will agree that yes, if they were in your situation then they would want to die too. Most people are so scared of illness, of disability, of getting older, that wanting assisted suicide is seen as an entirely rational desire. What scares me is that views like these will also be held by the doctors, the media, the courts, the government and all the others who have the power to decide if we live or die.

I'm sure by now you know how I feel about assisted suicide. Until the day when good quality health and social care are universally available regardless of age, impairment,race, gender or location, I believe there is no place for legalised assisted suicide.

I just think it's too easy for a society to promote assisted suicide as a right rather than work to overcome the barriers to supporting older, ill and disabled people to live fulfilled and valuable lives. Forget the right to die, isn't it more urgent that we campaign for the right not to be killed?

We may have differing perspectives on this debate but I think what we share is our respect for each other. Thank you for sharing your story with me and for letting me into your life. I hope your one-way ticket to Switzerland is an open one so we can continue this discussion over the coming years.

h/t to Media dis&dat