by Liz Carr, The Spectator, 17 August 2017
Liz Carr is a UK actor, comedian and disability rights activist perhaps best known as forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery in the BBC’s Silent Witness.
Disability is fundamental in any discussion about assisted suicide: those high profile campaigns calling for a change to the law are almost always fronted by those who would be described as disabled. As 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.
There is such a fine line between terminal illness and disability both medically and in public perception, that they become one and the same. Consequently, assisted suicide is seen as an understandable and rational response to both. 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 the legalisation of assisted suicide? As long as some lives are deemed as not worth living and are viewed as less valuable than others, there is the unwitting potential that state sanctioned assisted suicide would further enshrine this inequality in law. When most people choose to end their life, we offer prevention but when ill, dying, older and disabled people talk about doing the same, they are often met with understanding and encouragement.
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