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Should We Be Helped to Die?

Should We Be Helped to Die?
In Aldous Huxley's book of the same name, death is celebrated. Hearses are 'gaily coloured’. People are sent to die in comfortable, primrose-coloured apartment blocks.

Is the Brave New World still a long way off? Gert Huysmans, The President of the Federation of Palliative Care of Flanders, Alex Schadenberg, the Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Ontario, and John Kelly, New England Regional Director at the Not Dead Yet anti-Euthanasia activist group in Boston join host John Harrison to discuss euthanasia.

Who are you to stop me, making a decision that I want to end my own live?

John Kelly: We do not make that decision that you can’t end your life, because suicide is not illegal anywhere and people can find a way. What we are against is setting up a social policy in which some people’ lives are judged not to be valuable and are offered a suicide, whereas other people, who are valued, receive suicide prevention services.

Are societies constructed in a way, so that we are made to feel older people that are burdens on others?

Alex Schadenberg: I think the point about the doctor deciding is important. No one would request and the doctor should turn them away in circumstances. The fact is that the euthanasia concept is being sold to the culture as – it is all about my freedom of choice, when, in fact, it is really not about my freedom of choice. A person might have an ability to request it, the question is – who is actually making a decision and under what circumstances. So, when John is talking about the fact that people with disabilities really don’t feel they have a choice, it is because that is the reality, it is not because there is some social worry. It is the reality and it is the doctor making a decision.

The theory of how regulations prevent authorities from letting euthanasia get out of control is one thing, the practice is another.

John Kelly: We in the US – the Disability Rights Movement – have fought for a generation against the arrogance being displayed by the doctor, where the doctors can presume they judge the quality of life and when it is correct to end it. We have a history of being judged to not have a high quality of lives. And whenever suffering is the subjective criterion for deciding who gets to die, people with disabilities will always be the ones who are targeted.

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