Steven Drake of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet has written two great articles reacting to the news of 45 year old deaf twins who were “voluntarily” euthananized in Belgium because they were going blind. The men were not terminally ill, yet they met the Belgian legal criteria for euthanasia because of the “grave and incurable suffering” they experienced from knowing that in the future they would “not have been able to lead autonomous lives” (http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/14/16507519-faced-with-blindness-deaf-twins-choose-euthanasia?lite).
Be sure to read both of Drake’s articles, in order:
Here are some things to consider:
- In the first article Drake references a deaf/blind blogger who apparently considers her life valuable in spite of its not being autonomous. She is quite concerned that the Belgian legal system considers her eligible for euthanasia. We think her concern is justified.
- In the second article Drake references a dog who saved his owners from a house fire despite being deaf, blind, and having only three legs. It’s a good thing for the owners of the dachshund that they didn’t decide to put him down because his inability to live an autonomous life (i.e. the trouble they have taking care of him) constitutes unbearable and incurable suffering (for whom?).
- We mourn, try to prevent, and do not assist suicides of people whose lives we consider valuable.
- Allowing euthanasia or assisted suicide sends a message that causes some people to judge their lives not valuable, perhaps not even as valuable as the lives of some pet animals. There are many ways the Belgian brothers could have lived useful and joyful lives (perhaps as bloggers or perhaps they might even have saved someone from a fire?) had their society’s laws not told them that deafness, blindness and the inability to live autonomously makes life not worth living. True Dignity is positive that there is no way in the world that the Belgian euthanasia law didn’t restrict the brothers’ free choice, putting subtle pressure on them to die rather than adjust to their disabilities.
- Though the assisted suicide laws that have been passed in the US restrict its use to people judged to have six or fewer months to live, in 2011 an Oregon newspaper published an op-ed urging the expansion of assisted suicide to“persons who are not terminally ill but suffering a severely debilitating medical condition they judge to be unbearable” as well as to incompetent people (http://www.theolympian.com/2011/11/16/1878667/perhaps-its-time-to-expand-washingtons.html). The same year Barbara Coombs Lee wrote an op-ed calling for Oregon’s minimal reporting requirements to be dropped (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-coombs-lee/oregon-aid-in-dying_b_952647.html).
We might as well end this with a video of the deaf, blind, three-legged dachshund whose life proved surprisingly useful (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nbc-news/49921283#49921283). Like Stephen Drake, we don’t get this. Like him, we think we’re glad we don’t.