Monday, 21 May 2012

How is it possible I haven't blogged about Euthenasia yet?

Ah, Euthenasia (not Youth-In-Asia as I thought the term was when I was 12)... The pinnacle of freedom. For others the slipperiest of slopes. For some the impossible to conceive. How have I not written about this topic yet, when it is one of my all time favourite thiings to ruminate on?

An article on Jezabel reminded me of this topic, it can be viewed here:

In a nutshell, the article talks about how the "miracles" of modern medicine are keeping people alive for longer, but often with devastating economic, and of course emotional, consequences. What Mother wants her adult children to see her wither away into a demented state, a state where she oftyen doesn't recognise them, wanders off and causes panic for them, even in some cases assaults them? Or, the alternative, where the mind remains sprightly but the body fails, kept alive on machines and personal carers while you suffer the indignity of not being able to control your bowel movements.

I have always been a passionate advocate for Euthenasia, to the point where I considered contacting Exit Australia and smuggling back Nembutal from Mexico to donate to their cause (Nembutal is the clinical name given to the drug veterinarians use to euthanise animals- it is rigourously controlled here but freely available from pet stores in Central/ South America. It is the drug that Exit Australia condone using for end of life as it is relatively painless and very effective). But Legalising Euthenasia is not a popular song to sing in my particular field. Why you ask? I'll try and explain why...

Firstly, we have to define what we mean by Euthenasia. Sounds simple? Not really, but I'll give it a shot, in classic Missy confusion:

- Voluntary Euthenasia is when a person who is terminally ill/ has a disability or condition that will ultimately lead to death, performs an act (injecting a substance into themselves, swallowing a pill etc) that will kill them. The key is it is an action that the person takes themselves.

- Assisted Suicide is when a person has a terminal illness and has someone assist them with ending their life (most often has a doctor prescribe and administer the substance that will kill them). This is very controversial, there is a common argument that the more people that are legally allowed to be involved, the more likelyhood of coersion. It is also controversial as there are businesses set up who profit from assisted suicidde (The Dignitas facility in Switzeland, for example. Nicnamed the "Death Hotel", it has been condemned for making money out of providing a space and means for people to end their life).

Note that both Euthenasia and Assisted Suicide are illegal in Australia. What is legal in Australia is Advance Medical Directives, which is basically a legal document that states that, once you get to a certain point, you don't want any medical intervention that will prolong your life. This makes me uneasy because even if you're not actively prolonging life, by not having the medical treatment and allowing whatever illness to overcome you, you are likely to be in a great amount of pain.

Anyway, back to why people working in the disability sector don't tend to agree with the legalisation of Euthenasia. Most of the arguments used for Euthenasia centre around what I desribed above- not having the ability to attend to ones own toileting needs. Many people with significant physical and/or intellectual disability need personal care to help them with their toileting needs... Why does society think we are not of value if we cannot perform these tasks on our own? A lot of the arguments used for the legalisation of Euthenasia have a very narrow view of what a person should be able to do, and if they can't, then why not dispose of them because they OBVIOUSLY have no quality of life!?!

In addition to this, is of course what is colloquially known as the "slippery slope" argument. Disability advocates have argued that voluntary euthenasia will lead to pressure on people to assist in the killing of people with disability, as they are such a drain on both economic and emotional resources. Much like the legality of aborting foetuses that have a very slim chance of living outside the womb has led to the legalisation of aborting foetuses who have Downs Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities, but would live for many years if born.

Adding to this already potent mix of arguments is the grim knowledge that Hitler and the Nazi Party used the term Euthenasia to justify killing people with disability that were "plaguing" Germany at the time.

So as you can see, I'm just rambling non sensically here, I have no argument, no point. I guess writing about these things just helps me to get it straighter in my head. I acknowledge the challenges and the concerns about legal Euthenasia, however I still whole heartedly agree with it. Because, at the end of the day, when you ask yourself "Do I want to be able to decide when to leave my family and let myself rest?" The answer, invariably, is YES.

For more information on Exit Australia, visit their website:

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