Ok, this is getting written just minutes before I am posting it, so this will probably be pretty rough. Let’s see how this goes.
I follow a woman named Caitlyn Doughty on youtube and on her blog. She is a mortician who talks about death, and grief, and burial practices, etc. She wants people to become more connected to death and grief and such, and is generally not in favor of how our current society generally tries to avoid such things. This is a really rough explanation, but I hope I’m getting the idea across. I really like her youtube series Ask A Mortician and generally support her ideals.
Now, there’s one thing in particular I want to focus on here. On her blog, she is talking about an “End of Life Option Act” currently in debate in California. She is strongly in favor of it, believing that people who are terminally ill should have the option to request medication to peacefully end their lives. Honestly, I can see her point. I would even go so far as to say I support the idea.
Only there’s another side to this. A disability side. A side where doctors (and others) will take it upon themselves to decide whether or not a severely disabled person’s life is worth living. This is a very dangerous and Not OK thing (and there are links out there about it; I’m sorry I don’t have any on hand right now). So in disability communities, often people are absolutely against Death With Dignity legislation, because of how it could easily be abused.
What I think needs to happen is for these two groups to have a conversation. Those who are in favor of things like the End of Life Option Act need to sit down and listen to the concerns of disabled individuals and find ways to address them. The concerns of the disability community are serious and entirely valid, and deserve to be heard.
Which is why, way back in February, I decided to give it a try. I went ahead and emailed Caitlyn via the email address given for Ask A Mortician on her website. This is what I emailed:
Hello. I am a big fan of your work, your book, your youtube channel, and your message of death positivity in general.You recently posted a link to your facebook page talking about a landmark decision in Canada to allow two women to “die with dignity.” I support such legislation and am a big believer in people being able to take charge of their own deaths.However, I also run in some circles that are strongly against such legislation. As such, I have a serious question for you. I know you cannot answer individual mail anymore, but I hope it is at least something you are keeping in mind as you do your work.I am autistic, and am at least somewhat aware of disability issues. One of those issues is the extremely serious problem of doctors believing that disabled lives are not worth living, and doing things like pushing disabled people to not undergo life-saving treatment, or deliberately giving needed treatment so slowly that it does not do any good. One of the responses to this problem is to be against “death with dignity” legislation, under the idea that there is absolutely no way to enact this without leaving it open for abuse by doctors and caregivers of the severely disabled.I like to believe that there is a way to cover both of these issues. So what I want to know is – as a proponent of death with dignity and such, how are you taking into account the other side of the coin, with the current and horrific problem of people in positions of power already concluding that disabled lives are not worth living, despite the fact that many of those disabled people feel very much so that their lives ARE worth living? What do you think is the best way to prevent abuse of “death with dignity” laws or rulings in the future?Thank youAndraya
- It allows only qualified, terminally ill and mentally competent adults to request and obtain a prescription from their physician for medication that the patient can self-administer to bring about a peaceful and humane death. Two physicians must confirm the prognosis is terminal.
- It requires two witnesses to attest that the request is voluntary.
- It protects physicians from civil or criminal liability, and from professional disciplinary action, if they fulfill an eligible individual’s request. Participation by doctors is fully voluntary.
- It provides safeguards against any coercion of patients: It establishes felony penalties for coercing or forging a request; and it honors a patient’s right to rescind the request.
That the medication is to be self-administered is, I think, the point that I find the most important. I do not believe even these measures completely prevent possible abuse, but it does drastically reduce it.
Plus, I am both surprised and pleased that I was contacted at all. That’s pretty cool.