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December 11, 2006



Aargh, so depressing. But you are right on, as I usually find you. My husband just took a new job providing psychotherapy and case management for people who are house bound. Not surprisingly, his caseload is mostly poor disabled people and poor old people, both of home could probably get out of the house with more support.

I love the name "Not Dead Yet." I became familiar with the group at a previous job, and I apply the term to myself every day. It makes me laugh, although perhaps I have a sick sense of humor.

Ian Murphy

A very well written article that raises cases which are almost certainly going to occur... worryingly. however, you are mixing several situations which are not really related. The movement is 'right-to-die' - not 'right-to-kill'. If a person is not concious a court order would normally be required to have medical equipment disconnected.

Right-to-die is where someone has decided they do not want to go on.

The quandry in recent years has come about because medicine has gotten better and better at keeping the human body going for extended periods of time. A person can be kept alive almost indefinitely.

If the person is not concious the medical system has an obligation to keep them alive. Its up to their guardians and the legal system to decided if they should be disconnected from whatever keeps them alive.

If you are concious and capable of rational thought (and capable of pain) but not of movement, you are trapped between the two systems. A generation ago people in this situation would have simply died from benign neglect at home or in hospices, now they survive. Don't they have a say in the matter?

On the flip side there would exist the problem of someone who feels they are a burden on their loved ones or is pressured by an uncaring family to suicide. Right-to-die legislation should attempt to cover this.

In the end most people cling tenaciously onto life. The number of people who are in this situation and actually say they want to die is very very few.

Perhaps redirecting some of the concern to the *thousands* of fit and healthy people who commit suicide every year would be protecting far more people.


Thanks for this well reasoned argument. There's a lot to think about here as usual. There's a lot in the landscape to understand.


Ian Murphy:

I'm afraid you may have missed the whole point I was trying to make. Although you are right, there are a myriad of situations that are entirely different that will potentially come up in end of life issues, such as a person who is unconsious vs. a person who is severely disabled and who is suicidal, I could not cover them all in one article.

However, I was not attempting to cover them. What I was trying to convey is the culture of death that exists for people with disabilities and/or terminal illnesses. The pervasive prejudicial belief that it is better to be dead than disabled permeates every aspect of these decisions. The economic and profit-driven conflict of interest in the health care field causes coercive pressure that is unfair to either the individuals making these decisions, or the family members deciding on their behalf.

The point of the post is that "right to die" easily, so very easily is confused with right to kill. We have not adequately determined where and under what circumstances the line between the two falls. And history shows that when we have any sort of mandated power to abuse or eliminate disabled people, we use it willingly.

And I should direct my concern to the thousands of fit and healthy people who are suicidal, why? Because they deserve my concern more than disabled people? Because their lives are worth saving and disabled people's lives aren't as valuable? You just proved my point.

Sarah V.

Just wanted you to know that for years, I've kind of been in this undecided state of "I think euthanasia probably should be legalised but I'm just not sure and could do with knowing more about it", and I was recently, after some discussions on the subject, leaning more towards the "should be legalised" side. Then I read this, and I swung all the way around to the anti-euthanasia side so fast I'm still getting over the dizziness. So, if you ever wonder whether any of what you write makes a difference; yes, it does.


Brilliant! That is just what I was looking for. It doesn't matter what classes you've taken, you have experience that speaks to this directly in ways no class full of 20-something, able-bodied college students could get from a book.

I think the most salient point here for me is that "right to die" legislation would help very few people but put many more at risk.

People have been getting doctors, nurses and loved ones to assist in their suicides for years--without the law. So it makes sense when you say the law itself is really about something else. And the stuff you have taught me about nursing homes is so damn sinister, I have no doubt they want these laws to help them "manage" their care obligations.

So thanks, this was very educational--as usual when you write about disability stuff. If I ever do teach bio-ethics again, I will at the very least invoke these ideas if not have you as a guest presenter!


Linda, I just have to say that this post was brilliant and wonderful and cogent. Thank you!

Gluten-Free By The Bay

This is a brilliant post, you articluated my beliefs about this so beautifully and taught me more as well.


It was a long read, but definitely worth it! In the past I have typically come down on the "right to die" side, however I realized today that I had done so without having really examined my own position.

Your thought-provoking post convinced me, and I am planning to take away more than a few of your arguments to keep in mind for future conversations about the subject.



I agree it's a brilliant post from a more brilliant mind. Your point about what the person would want today versus what they thought they wanted is really important. Well worth the long, long read. Thanks for writing this Lisa!

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