By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Director of EPC - International and HOPE Ireland.
Emer O’Kelly writes emotionally in the Irish Sunday Independentabout Marie Fleming.
Marie was my friend and colleague in Swansea University for several years. At times we ‘colluded’ – the Northern Irish Two against the world – in the nicest and fun way of course.
I had already been disabled for twenty years when we met. My catastrophic change to wheelchair user came in an instant, collateral damage in a war I had no hand in. We did not know Marie was to become a wheelchair user herself, through progressive multiple sclerosis.
I joined Not Dead Yet UK, a loose coalition of disabled people, at the request of its founder Baroness Jane Campbell, friend, fellow Disability Rights Commissioner, and herself a lifelong disabled activist. I had visited the idea of suicide myself seriously, so I was unsure how I felt about euthanasia/assisted suicide. I began researching. When I uncovered for myself what exactly is going on where the act of taking another’s life is legal, I was horrified.
I have since appeared in front of many highly emotionally-charged audiences, extremely hostile to my opposition to legalisation. I am not usually afforded the courtesy of time to explain my position, constantly shouted down by angry people, including supposedly impartial journalists.
What most audiences, and what Emer O’Kelly fails to understand is that opposition to legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide is not about some cruel desire to stand in Tom or Marie’s way.
Disabled people reflect the views of the people around them, just as much as a studio audience, for example. So it is understandable that some disabled people think they should be allowed to die by euthanasia or to have someone else assist them to commit suicide. I can respect this and understand their fears of a painful death or of not wishing to be a burden on others. But I can still oppose such legislation for reasons of its terrible consequences.