THE RIGHT TO LIVE.

AuthorErvin, Mike

A couple months ago, I heard a report on the radio that legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard had died. I thought I heard them say the cause of death was assisted suicide. But then I suspected I had heard it wrong, because the newscaster said "assisted suicide" so casually, almost as if it were in passing. It sounded like assisted suicide was as common as having a heart attack.

If Godard had died by suicide with the assistance of a doctor, that in itself would be a big story, wouldn't it?

Then I heard the same report repeated twice, and each time, the broadcaster skated swiftly over the words "assisted suicide," as if it were a superfluous detail. Indeed, my ears had not been deceiving me.

It brought on a sickening feeling of social and political loneliness and abandonment that I often feel when this subject arises. I feel this way because I frequently see the right to assisted suicide defended not as the ability to escape the physical pain of a terminal illness, but to escape the emotional pain of being a disabled "burden."

In this context, being a burden is defined as needing the help of others to do routine things like getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and feeding oneself. Well, guess what? I need help doing all of these things and more, every day. That's the way it has been for me for decades, and it will be that way for the rest of my life. The idea that I should want to die because of it is ridiculous to me.

That type of mentality implies that being someone like me is a fate worse than death. When the sentiment is accommodated by providing quick access to assisted suicide, its validity is resoundingly affirmed by our culture.

The ho-hum reaction of the media to Godard's cause of death had let this twisted logic go unquestioned.

In Godard's case, an unnamed person close to the family noted, "He was not sick, he was simply exhausted. So he had made the decision to end it. It was his decision and it was important for him that it be known." A legal adviser to the family added that Godard "had recourse to legal assistance in Switzerland for a voluntary departure as he was stricken with 'multiple invalidating illnesses.'"

Let me digress for a moment to unpack the word "invalid" when referring to disability. That word is so extremely degrading because it literally means in-VAL-id. But putting the accent on a different syllable makes it sound more palatable. The word equates the presence of a disability with the...

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