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Leading Australian disability advocate: A Few Thoughts on Assisted Suicide

by John Moxon, HOPE, 10 October 2016

in 2013 Mr Moxon was awarded the Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement in Disability for his 30 years of advocating for people with disabilities. Mr Moxon became quadriplegic after a motor racing accident at the age of 31.

I think the aspect of the assisted suicide debate that I find most troubling is the inequity involved – the way people who are not perceived as having a disability but who attempt or even talk about committing suicide are universally encouraged to not end their lives. With calls for all sorts of funding for programs to support people to see that suicide is not the way to go: that there’s always a way to resolve your fears and problems that doesn’t involve death.

Time and again we hear of the devastating effects of suicide on the loved ones who are left behind.

But if you have a disability people advocate that you should have the choice to commit suicide, and even have the right to have a doctor assist you.

It seems that if you have an obvious and severe disability that you must be “suffering unbearably”, and should have the right to end your life.

And it’s often pointed out how burdensome someone with a disability is to their carer or other family members. And how their death is a relief to all concerned. “They are in a better place now.”

If we, as a nation, acquiesce to such a desire, we may, nay will, find that we have made a profound change to the way our medical profession interacts with and relates to those whom they treat.

Doctors will find themselves increasingly called upon to end the lives of people who are not dying (not soon, anyway) but people who simply fear the changed circumstances that a deterioration in their condition might bring (such as dependence on others for personal care, incontinence, poor mobility, reduced cognitive capacity, loss of sight or hearing, etc.).

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