Liz Carr: A conversation starter on assisted suicide

by Liz Carr, Big Issue North, 9 November 2016

lizcarr_assisteddyingprotest-2Ms Carr – a UK actor, comedian and disability rights advocate – writes about taking her show Assisted Suicide: The Musical to Glasgow.

I’m a wheelchair user who needs 24 hour assistance with the most personal of tasks. The people we see in the media calling for help to end their lives often look like me. No, they often look healthier than I do. But when we have so few representations of disabled people on TV or in the media then the assumption becomes that people like me must find life unbearable and that of course we’d want to end our lives. Perhaps that’s why I’ve had complete strangers tell me that if they were like me then they couldn’t go on. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I oppose assisted suicide

Or maybe my views on this subject have been shaped by my overly reliant relationship with the NHS, which has taught me that doctors can be fallible, prejudiced and that medical mistakes happen. I wouldn’t be alive without the NHS but I recognise that it’s currently under-staffed and under-resourced. Against a backdrop of longer shifts, difficulty in obtaining appointments and the rationing of certain treatments, should we really be pushing further pressures onto our reluctant doctors?

As a passionate campaigner, I’ve debated this subject on Newsnight on various occasions, I’ve been on a euthanasia road trip to all the countries where assisted suicide or euthanasia are legal and I made this experience into a two-part BBC World Service radio documentary, When Assisted Death is Legal, which you can listen to at assistedsuicidethemusical.com. And then five years ago, I had the idea of combining my life as a performer with my life as a campaigner. Assisted Suicide The Musical was born.

The show is best described as a TED talk with show tunes and this September it premiered at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank. The show was sold out and we received standing ovations. People laughed and cried and some even heckled but most importantly, as they left the theatre and in the bar afterwards, they were talking about this most difficult of subjects – how we die. The show is indeed a conversation starter. I couldn’t be more proud.

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