This week I read a very sad and disturbing blog post by a man suffering from terminal cancer in Washington State who soon intended to drink a doctor-prescribed lethal poison to end his life. In his reasoning he wrote, “…my quality of life has become unacceptable to me.” When discussing the option of what life would be like if he continued to live he opined that “I guess they would just keep increasing my dosage of painkillers until I became comatose and then starved to death while someone else wiped my butt.”
His blog posts were picked up by pro-suicide advocates and posted on the Patient Choices Vermont Facebook page. (Patient Choices is the Vermont group spearheading the effort to pass assisted suicide). It is common of assisted suicide advocates to promote such stories, and use such unfortunate vocabulary as “wiped my butt.” Such words are immensely hurtful to the disabled community, and anyone living with a sickness who needs help with hygiene.
It is devaluing to all people who are suffering and need help with toileting. It is immensely troubling that suicide advocacy groups who claim to be the voice for dignity of the sick and dying would continually capitalize on someone else’s need for help with hygiene.
There are many people living dignified and valuable lives who need help with toileting. The New York Times ran a piece long ago on Christopher Reeve that described the daily help he needed. Christopher Reeve lived for nine years not being able to move himself, totally dependent on a ventilator and those who took care of him. He lived out these nine years, with both dignity and worth, making a profound impact on the world around him.
When people write that they are killing themselves because they don’t want to get to the point where they need ‘their butts wiped,’ it is hurtful and devalues the lives of others. It is certainly NOT dignified behavior from assisted suicide advocates.