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Overseas Euthanasia

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Zephyr | 23:03 UK time, Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating Eric MacDonald of Nova Scotia for bring his wife to Switzerland for an assisted suicide.

Elizabeth MacDonald, 38, had a severe form of multiple sclerosis that left her in a wheelchair, unable to move. As well, her throat was beginning to paralyze.

Her husband said she feared becoming trapped in her own body and had tried to commit suicide herself a year ago.

I found this article from a buddy on LiveJournal, who says he hopes that Canada legalizes euthanasia soon. I used to feel the same way myself until I started reading the blogs of other crips who are severely disabled. Now I know that society prefers to euthanize the severely disabled, because it takes less work than actually helping them LIVE. If we kill 'em off early, they won't be a huge drain on the system and a burden on society, right?

I never knew that forced euthanasia had been a problem for the disability community. You see, even though I'm severely disabled, I'm still 'normal' in the eyes of society. I walk, though with a cane and limp. I have no physical irregularities or deformities. I don't have any intellectual or learning disabilities. Until I started using a cane, most people didn't even know I had a disability. My parents were never told to put me in an institution, or leave me on a mountaintop. I read stories of forced euthanasia and forced sterilization of PWDs and am horrified. This is actually news to me.

Personally, though, I always viewed euthanasia as a nice escape route if things got too bad. I've had some very painful periods where I knew I couldn't go on living that way for life. I still feel that way. I don't know how I feel about legalized euthanasia anymore, but I still believe wholeheartedly in good old-fashioned suicide. I'm fortunate that my religious beliefs don't dictate punishment in the afterlife if I take that option.

My main fear is that if assisted suicide becomes legal, every person who becomes newly disabled will run off to a euthanasia clinic and off themselves. I'm probably exaggerating, but I really hope that the laws would be quite stringent. I would hope that someone would have to live with a disability for at least a couple of years before being eligible for euthanasia. A couple of years with rehabilitative services, occupational therapy and assisted independent living can make a big difference.

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  • 1.
  • At 01:40 PM on 28 Jun 2007, Nicola wrote:

"I never knew that forced euthanasia had been a problem for the disability community. "

I don't mean this rudely but...really? I don't know i guess its a more obvious paralell for some people than others. In my eyes its just as much of a disability issue as anything else, and that's not because its anything i'll ever have to confront.

But the fact i am disabled, albeit with a non-fatal, static and fairly painless impairment, allows me to put the issue in a context that is maybe distinct from the average non-crip on the street.

i just never really acknowledged, as i do now, that other disabled people would not consider it that way let alone agree with it.

i'm not saying we should all agree with each other its the fact you're saying it never occurred to you that made me think. Interesting stuff.


  • 2.
  • At 06:50 PM on 28 Jun 2007, BAW wrote:

I have always been against legalized euthanasia, not the least because it could so easily be moved from permitted to mandatory, as it did in Germany some sixty years ago.

Nicola: Nope, only ever read about one case before last year. I knew it was done in ancient times, but not in recent times, say, the last century.

  • 4.
  • At 06:39 PM on 03 Jul 2007, Eric MacDonald wrote:

Hi, Zephyr,

I read your note about my wife's death with interest. I have a couple of comments.

First, it is true that my wife was disabled. She had been in a wheelchair since the end of 2002. She was getting progressively worse, and would soon have been unable to move any part of her body. I'm not sure how long that would have taken, but Elizabeth feared it more than she feared anything else, for then, as she said, she would have been trapped in her own body. She would probably also have been trapped in another way as well, since it is very likely that she would not have been able to speak or communicate in any way. This terrified her, and she spent many years with this fear.

I don't think what Elizabeth did has anything to do with disabled people as such. She had a terminal disease, though it is uncertain how much longer she could have lived. And it was a progressive one, so that her abilities were declining at a steady rate, and had been doing so for nearly nine years.

Elizabeth never advocated assisted suicide for disabled people as a class, though there may be some disabled people who would avail themselves of it were it available. What she believed is that, once life has become a burden too great to bear (these are words she used), the option should be available for those, with a durable desire to end their lives, that is, one that is consistent over a significant period, to do so.

Elizabeth's condition was terminal. It was a progressive disease, which was taking away everything she valued in life, and would have soon taken away her life itself. She did not want to spend her last days trapped in her own body, dependent on others for everything. She valued, above all, having control of her life, making plans and carrying them out, and relating with others. All these things would have been taken from her.

I certainly did not want to see Elizabeth go, and it pains me now more than I can say that she is gone. A light has gone off in my life, and it is hard to see where I can go from here without her. However, it was she who wanted to do this, and I did not feel that I had a right to stand in her way. So I accompanied her to Zurich, and I was with her when she died. It was, as I have told others, the last loving thing that I could do for her - not to let her die alone - even though doing so has filled my heart with such sorrow that life itself seems now a very unlovely thing.

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