‘Death with dignity’ devalues disability

by Mike Volkman, Times Union, 27 November 2017

What does it mean to die with dignity? Or the opposite, what is death without dignity or with indignity? There is no legal definition. It is a phrase people like to use with the hope that it is sufficient and accepted. Remember the bit George Carlin did in 1992 about euphemisms? They hide the truth.

Legislative bodies should come up with legal definitions for the term. They should specify what constitutes dignified ways of dying. When they come to define what are undignified ways of dying, the challenge is how to do it without describing circumstances that go with disability. Because if they can’t get around that, then it makes one thing perfectly clear.

That one thing is that it is in the interests of the state to protect all lives except those of people with disabilities. If the presence of a disability, whether it is from birth or from later acquisition, makes it justifiable to place a value judgment on a person for a life-or-death decision, that makes an entire class of people subject to a double standard. That is state-sponsored bigotry allowing up to one sixth of the population to be discarded and unprotected.

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