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Administrative Error – An Open Letter to the Greens on Euthanasia Safeguards

by Samantha Connor, Gimpled, 16 January 2017

Ms Connor reflects on the New South Wales’ Coroner’s report into the death of Shona Hookey, “a young Aboriginal woman who died in the Emergency Department of the Campbelltown Hospital on 19 July 2013. She suffered from severe intellectual disability and had a history of epilepsy, stroke, right side hemiplegia and other conditions.”

Central to the Coroner’s investigation were statements from four people that the doctor treating Ms Hookey “made statements or asked questions that suggested that he thought that Shona, because of her intellectual disability, should receive a lesser standard of care and treatment than would be given to ‘normal’ patients.”

I’m writing this not just for my fellow disabled people, but for all the members of my community who have woken up with DNR tags around their wrists.  For activist Stella Young, who was once told pre-surgery by a nurse that at 32, she’d had a good innings.  For the people who are switched off by your ‘safeguards’ every day. 

They’re not single incidents, or bad eggs, or chance occurrences.  A fortnight ago, a clinician told his patient that he would ‘want to die if he was her’ and asked if she was in favour of euthanasia.  It’s common for people to tell us that they’d ‘rather die than be in a wheelchair’.  There’s a pervasive attitude of ableism in Australia and disabled people encounter this every day, whether you believe that or not.  Deep-seated, institutionalised ableism and a belief that disabled people are burden, deficit, less worthy, other.  Better off dead. 

When we die, our deaths are not mourned.  It’s a blessing, they say.  If we die as a result of violence, it’s a mercy killing.  We’re burdens, you see.  If we die as a result of institutionalised ableism, it’s an administrative error and there is never, ever any public outcry. 

I hope you read this.  Think about this. Think about why ableism contributes to our deaths, which often we crave, because you haven’t fought for the right for us to live well before you’ve fought for us to have the right to die.

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