Sunday, February 22, 2015

My brain is broken.

So I'm going to start out this blog post with something very controversial: my opinion. Because it is my opinion, I generally don't publicly share it - and also because it's not an "educated" opinion, as in something that I have studied and wrestled with on an academic level, but it is an "emotional" opinion, as it has been formed by the education life has given me and how I react to certain situations.

I do believe that there should be a (personal) point where we can choose the way in which our lives end. There comes a point in some people's lives where it is no longer humane to expect them to live. Where is that line? I don't believe I can define that except for myself and those that have deemed me their health care proxy - in which case I have had explicit conversations with them on their wishes and have made them be very specific on situations and circumstances - even though the terms there are life saving efforts rather than life ending choices, I believe it is along the same lines as either way is a choice of how to live or not live.

I could go into my personal reasons for these thoughts, but I will leave the opinion part there for now. I believe knowing where one is coming from is important when discussing such serious matters, and so that is why I have offered my opinion above. As for class, the conversation we had that is still nagging at me was when we were discussing state- and nation-wide policies.

Personally, I don't see the harm in carefully legislating a "right to die", "assisted suicide", or "euthanasia" statute. And as far as third party rights, we have something similar in health care proxies. However, what we briefly discussed in class being passed in Australia and Canada is deeply disturbing, as it does not seem to be careful legislation. Yes, a bright line can be drawn at terminally ill persons, but there is also a fuzzy grey line there too in who decides and defines what makes a person terminal. That question, on who decides and who defines, I think is the crux of what this class is about when considering life and death choices/legislation such as this. At this point, I believe the vast majority of these decisions are being made through a medical lens.

Here, however, is where my brain basically shuts down... because I cannot fathom even contemplating how to quantify or qualify a decision such as this on anything less than a completely personal choice. Just as I am staunchly pro-choice and believe that no one should or can tell a woman how to decide whether or not an abortion is right for her, I don't think that anyone should tell any person how to decide how to live or not live their life. Medical lens or not, it just does not compute in my brain. I think there should be people on both sides of the "fence" that people can talk to, just as if a woman must make a decision about an abortion, medical opinions, social opinions, religious opinions, family opinions, and friends' opinions are all valuable, but all are also trumped by one's ultimately personal decision. Maybe our true issue is that we don't talk about these things openly.

On this topic, at this point though, my brain breaks.

(NB: Any information on the upcoming legislation would be greatly appreciated.. I would really like to study it in much more depth.)


  1. I think you capture how complicated this is so well. The point about knowing what you want for yourself, or being a proxy having had specific conversations, is really important. At the very least it's imperative that we know what someone's wishes are.

  2. It really is very complicated. What frustrates me about the assisted suicide conversation is that it becomes so focused on people's right to die, and the way many look at it is with the idea of a terminally ill person, who lived a largely able-bodied life, suffering in a hospital bed and wishing to no longer be kept alive by medical science. I think it is time to start honestly looking more at the other side of the issue, which is the darker side, the side that most able-bodied people are not going to be faced with; and that is the fact that disabled people are treated differently in terms of euthanasia, and have been, historically. I think if the debate and the media surrounding assisted suicide began to present more of the disability rights aspect, then the debate would change. And in turn, perhaps that would affect legislation.

  3. Kate, I think you're so on point about the differential medical treatment/coercion of people with disabilities and the need to present the disability rights perspective. I think this needs to happen both within media portrayals of physician-assisted suicide and in medical settings, anytime someone is faced with such a decision. These choices aren't made in a vacuum, and people need access to information that counters the hegemonic ableism in our culture when making such decisions. I think this is particularly important in light of Susan's point about knowing your own "line," given that, as we discussed in class, we're not so good at predicting our own line in advance as we'd like to think. Julie Reiskin makes this point in her 1991 essay in The Ragged Edge when she writes that "Three years ago my line lay at not being able to run. Then it moved, to: not being able to climb the stairs. It moved again, to: not being able to walk, then to: not being able to drive... Seeing as how I am writing this and I can no longer do any of these things, it's clear I've changed my line again" (p. 203). I agree that this is a messy and complicated debate, but the entire idea of fighting for "the right to die" within a society where ableism pervades and so powerfully shapes our taken-for-granted assumptions about what life is worth living and what counts as an acceptable "quality of life," and when people are so grossly uninformed about the disability rights perspective, is really disconcerting. This is particularly true given, as Kate pointed out that, that disabled people have historically been and continue to be treated differently when it comes to these issues.