On the supposed “death with dignity” movement, and the value of a disabled life

Whenever assisted suicide comes up amongst my friends and family, they are very pro-assisted suicide. I get angry and quiet and don’t have the energy to explain explain explain, which is unusual for me, but this topic is so vast and exhausting and sometimes I think that no one with a disability is in any position to see the medical industrial complex from my point of view because they have never been treated the way I have in a doctor’s office.

This essay by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg about Amanda Baggs and the pressure the medical establishment is putting on her to turn down life-saving procedures and just die already gets at the heart of why I object to this. Please read it:

“I think that many people feel that they would rather die than to be treated as though they are worthless. And so they put forward legislation that will give them a way out. But they don’t realize that we can fight the idea that it’s better to be dead than ill or disabled — that we can react to it with outrage, and that we can create communities of support so that none of us ends up with our worst fears realized.”


Published by haddayr

Writer, parent, cripple, queer; worker, dancer. City dweller. Bicyclist. I love whiskey, tea, and cussing.

7 thoughts on “On the supposed “death with dignity” movement, and the value of a disabled life

  1. Hi Haddyr, I think you already know that I’m disabled and pro-assisted dying. You’re very welcome to write about this on the LiveJournal community where we first met (friendly_crips) – nobody has to agree with my opinions.

  2. I’m of mixed opinion when it comes to assisted suicide, even in my own head, and even in a single moment.

    In principle, the pro- side of the argument goes: we each have the right to have control over the boundaries of our own life, and our own bodies. And if and if we decide we’ve had enough of this mortal coil, we should have the right to shuffle it off on our own terms.

    But practically, that gets so much more muddy and knotted in the real world filled with bigotry when the right to make our own choices is so often curtailed by flights of steps and narrow doorways, and politics, and money, and privilege.

    I’m currently trying to figure out how to write on my own journal about my misgivings over Obama’s new initiative to map the brain and how I sincerely hope that a cure for cerebral palsy will NEVER be found. Because really, from what I’ve seen, all the “suffering” that people with cerebral palsy endure is actually the suffering of bigotry. And it’s bigotry that needs to be eliminated, rather than the diversity of human experience be curtailed.

    1. This sounds like a funny thing to say to someone who says she never knows how she feels at any given moment, but we are in perfect accord. My silence and anger probably comes from having too many blithely ignorant AB friends and family who truly believe this is all about choices and that’s that.

      1. I don’t know if you’ve ever followed LiveJournal’s community gimp_dot_snark, but I remember reading there in one of the comments, it all comes down to the word “just,” as when friends and family try to give advice and say “why don’t you just do…?”

        There’s nothing “just” about any of this – in either sense of the word “just.”

  3. I share your fury, quiet, and frustration. Partly any conversation on this topic involves debating whether I am worthy of life. Many disability rights advocates were horrified when Harriet McBryde Johnson agreed to debate Peter Singer, a philosopher who’s willing to “euthanize” disabled babies. I find a lot of wisdom in what she wrote about that decision and the subsequent debate. The essay “Unspeakable Conversations” is available free online in the archives of the NYTimes Magazine of 16 February 2003 It’s also reprinted in her book Too Late to Die Young

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