I am 45, I have cerebral palsy, mild bipolar, nerve pain and asthma, plus I am gay. This is all relevant as I will explain later. I am also hyper-intelligent and a leading disability consultant, trainer, researcher, advocate, activist, actor, comedian and so on. I have faced a lot of discrimination and abuse all my life but I lived very well as someone with an unsupportive and even abusive family.
I used to be 100% against assisted suicide for the most part still I am but I learnt its complex. I have felt suicidal at times and it has always been environmental, often when I have been forced to stay in bed when I could easily been put in my wheelchair like in hospital. I aspirated all my life, which means food, drink and drool goes into my lungs and if that goes stale I get an infection, sitting upright reduces this but my hospital does not understand this. I can’t cough properly so I need to retch sitting upright. If this is denied to me than I get distressed.
Important to note at this stage my home is perfect for my needs. I do employ personal assistants but with the wonders of technology, I am very independent, and it annoys me healthcare professionals assume I need 24 hour care and I am ‘retarded’.
In terms of assisted suicide, we firstly have what I will call arrogant assisted suicide. These are people who have an impairment label who have few actual symptoms and they desire a doctor to kill them on a specific date in the future. This is about legitimising which their religion regards as a sin, considering the idea of being a burden on family. This kind of suicide is completely wrong as its based on how they may think and feel in the future.
Due to a nerve virus I have been truly bedbound for 4 days until I had a hoist fitted. Living upstairs I was then housebound for 10 weeks as someone with a nerve virus having rehab on top of cerebral palsy. While I was in control of my daytime support, I hated overnight care. I went through 3 care agencies in 3 months. It required a lot of determination to cope with the abuse I was coping with. I felt suicidal when the staff were instructed not to help me out of bed. This was a period when I sat for hours on my commode using my computer to feel safe.
This is when the environmental factors of suicidal desires can be considered. All suicidal desires are environmental, people can feel trapped, and its sorting out their environment as well as moral support. It is not easy as ‘we’ need to establish the existing or imagined needs someone with suicidal thoughts is concerned about and resolve them to their satisfaction.
The second form of ‘assisted suicide’ is the mercy killing of children who are considered as having a ‘poor quality of life’. I am talking as someone who was predicted to live 3 days and when that failed I was going to be a cabbage, not the leading disability consultant I am now. And my level of cp is quite mild but decreased with aging.
My kinda boyfriend is very impaired with cerebral palsy, he can not talk or do anything physically for himself but he has an excellent life. The world would have a hole in it without him and I would be without a soul mate.
Where assisted suicide is complex is end of life care, when people have a few days or hours to live. I lived in chronic pain for ten years and it becomes confusing, they ask you to describe your pain and its like a life story.
The reality is assisted suicide in these situations happens around the world on a case by case basis already but I believe it can never be defined in law. Do we have the right to prolong someone’s death when their dying when they are in pain because of politics? I don’t know the answer.
Assisted suicide means different things to different people. We live in a volatile political environment where even in the UK, under a left wing government, the building of gas chambers for moral and economic reasons is a real possibility.
Assisted suicide must be opposed but at the same time the risks to suicide and end of life care must also be improved.