States Worse Than Death: I Don’t Think So

by William Peace, Bad Cripple, 10 August 2016

Mr Peace has been paralysed since he was 18 years old. He is a writer, disability rights advocate and board member of Not Dead Yet.

He reflects on a study of 180 people in hospital in Philadelphia. All were over 60 years old and had a serious illness, including heart or lung disease.  Each person was asked to hypothesize whether they would prefer to die rather than have a range of functional restrictions.

However, as Mr Peace notes:

Here is the kicker: none of the patients had experienced the conditions described as a fate worse than death.

The results are as predictable as they are depressing:

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The patients responding to the hypotheticals posed had not experienced any of the conditions described. It seems to me if researchers wanted to ask this sort of hypothetical question it would behoove them to ask people that live with the conditions described. Instead, they did the exact opposite. This makes no sense. It is akin to asking a middle aged white man what it is like to be a black man.

It is attitudes like these that lead people with disabilities around the world to fear the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide. As Dr Huhana Hickey wrote in her affidavit in Seales v Attorney-General:

I am therefore deeply frightened, for myself and other disabled people, that the act of declaring that some lives are not worth living will legitimise a belief that my life is not worth living.

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