Commentary: Why disabled people like me fear assisted suicide

This article was published by Syracuse.com on November 6, 2015. The disability rights group, Not Dead Yet also republished this article.

Stephanie Woodward

Stephanie Woodward

By Stephanie Woodward

Having been born with a physical disability, I am all too familiar with the overwhelming number of people who feel that decisions should be made for me, not by me. I know the tactics used to coerce disabled people into doing what someone else thinks is best because they've been used on me. I am well aware of the "ableist'' notions that society holds – that having a disability is a tragedy, that we're a waste of resources and a burden on society, and that we're "brave" to live with our disabilities (which essentially means that most people would rather die than be "brave" and live with a disability like me).

We're often regarded as incapable of making our own decisions and unworthy of respect. However, when one disabled person announces they want to die, they're lauded in the press and on social media. Sara Myers, for example, has Lou Gehrig's disease and has received a slew of media attention for wanting assisted suicide because she began to experience disability. Media focused on Myers's use of a wheelchair and her need for assistance in showering and toileting to demonstrate why assisted suicide should be available to her. For full disclosure, I use a wheelchair and have needed assistance with both showering and toileting in my life, and I expect I'll need more assistance as I age. I take it very personally when media and society lists these as valid reasons to want to die.

Link to the full article