by Kevin Yuill, The Telegraph, 4 June 2016
Dr Yuill is senior lecturer in American history at the University of Sunderland, and author of Assisted Suicide: The Liberal,Humanist Case Against Legalisation.
The whole case for assisted suicide is fictional. Rather than empathy, it is based on anxiety in the worried well. “I’d rather die than suffer like you do”, some actually say out loud to disabled people, who, in my experience are a feisty lot who enjoy (and all too often must fight for) their lives. There are real disabled lives – and there is the narcissistic projection of gloomy imaginings onto the disabled.
The case for legalised assisted suicide has at its heart a fictional scene – a relative near the end of her life wracked with pain, betubed and hooked up to beeping machines, looks pleadingly to her anxious family who in turn look to the doctor, who shakes her head sadly, constrained by a law founded on outdated religious mores.
But the reality is (in this case the film does capture the truth) that those who do choose assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington, where it has been legal since 1997 and 2008 respectively, tend to be educated, middle class, determined, and used to getting their own way. Pain does not even come into the top five reasons why they opt for an assisted suicide in these states. Instead, it is fear – of loss of autonomy, loss of enjoyment of activities, loss of dignity, loss of bodily functions, and being a burden.
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