Friday, November 2, 2012
A propos Rick's recent post on the upcoming Massachusetts vote legalizing assisted suicide, John Inazu brought this gripping op ed piece from the NYT to my attention. The author, Ben Mattlin, introduces himself as follows: "As a good pro-choice liberal, I ought to support the effort. But as a lifelong disabled person, I cannot." He explains:
My problem, ultimately, is this: I’ve lived so close to death for so long that I know how thin and porous the border between coercion and free choice is, how easy it is for someone to inadvertently influence you to feel devalued and hopeless — to pressure you ever so slightly but decidedly into being “reasonable,” to unburdening others, to “letting go."
. . . a few years ago, when a surgical blunder put me into a coma from septic shock, the doctors seriously questioned whether it was worth trying to extend my life. My existence seemed pretty tenuous anyway, they figured. They didn’t know about my family, my career, my aspirations.
Fortunately, they asked my wife, who knows exactly how I feel. She convinced them to proceed “full code,” as she’s learned to say, to keep me alive using any and all means necessary.
From this I learned how easy it is to be perceived as someone whose quality of life is untenable, even or perhaps especially by doctors.
Unfortunately, I think that perception is just as common in decisions at the beginning of life as at the end of life.