Will I be Treated the Same Way Now?
Due to giving medical details, the author wishes to remain anonymous.
I am a disabled woman with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disease that attacks the joints. I use a walker or a wheelchair in my daily life.
I’m worried about where the medical field is heading. My home state of New Jersey has legalized assisted suicide, although there are currently legal battles over the law. The law is limited — but as we know, over time, they tend to expand the rules about who qualifies for assisted suicide. We’ve seen that in Canada, in the Netherlands; and in other countries.
RA is a progressive disease. I wonder what type of health care I’ll be getting as I get older and more severely disabled. RA can in fact become terminal, if it attacks the heart or other organs. I wonder if I’ll ever be pressured to accept assisted suicide.
Even more so, I wonder whether I will get the same suicide prevention services as an able-bodied person if I need them.
Recently in New Zealand, there was a case where a young woman who was wheelchair bound and in chronic pain, in a similar situation to mine, attempted suicide and went into a mental hospital. She told the psychiatrist who was assigned to her that she wanted to die. Instead of treating this woman’s depression, and counseling her against suicide, the doctor suggested she travel to Switzerland to a suicide clinic and kill herself there.
Every able-bodied patient in that hospital was presumably being told not to kill themselves and getting therapy and medication to treat their suicidal feelings. But a person in a wheelchair was encouraged by her own doctor to kill herself.
Due to my bipolar disorder, I’ve sometimes struggled with suicidal feelings myself. In my 20s, I too spent time in a mental hospital. I was young and physically able-bodied then. (I developed RA in my 30s.) The doctors were determined to prevent my suicide and worked with me to overcome those thoughts and feelings.
I can’t help but wonder if I ever need to go into the hospital again, will I be treated the same way now that I’m in a wheelchair? Maybe I would today, but what about 10 years from now, when my disability is even more severe? What about 20 years from now?
Today, if a person is actively suicidal, they can be put in a mental hospital, even against their will, and given treatment. Or a person can voluntarily seek treatment for suicidal feelings. If I do seek it in the future, will doctors encourage me live or help me to die?
Every time I read a story about another disabled person who was euthanized in another country, it hurts me on a personal level. I see how little disabled lives are valued compared to able-bodied ones. As a disabled person, that makes my own struggle against suicidal feelings harder. Assisted suicide has an effect on disabled people just by being available to other disabled people.
I have to say, I’m very glad to have found a movement that values all lives, even disabled ones. I’m so glad that so many people are with me when I speak up for the value of my life and the value of other disabled people’s lives. We need to continue advocating for ourselves and others.
Photo from Not Dead Yet
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