Disability Testimony – ‘no clear lines’

As part of the presentation to Victorian Parliamentarians by disability advocates on the 10th of August 2017, Kelly Cox related a testimony at the request of a friend.

This goes to the heart of why a ’12 months to live or less’ rule is meaningless. It also highlights the daily discrimination experienced by people with disability that makes them fear assisted suicide and euthanasia.

"In my experience - as a person with a lifelong terminal condition, and a transplant recipient who was given 12 months to live while on the waiting list - there are no clear lines around ideas of choice, of dignity, of pain, of coercion, even of suffering.

My thoughts and decisions at that time were bound in confusing mixtures of fatigue, medication, anxiety, hope and guilt. Concern for those closest to me and their burden of care was constantly in my thoughts. 

Cultural attitudes to terminal illness are underpinned almost entirely by a benign pity, and our default discourse both reflects and reinforces this: unbearable, helpless, without hope, suffering, inevitable, tragic, and incurable.

These are the words I have heard my whole life to describe my life and prospects.

They also, without coincidence, form the technical language of qualifying criteria for the euthanised.

Until our culture can stop defining my life - my healthy, thriving life - with the same terms as it uses to justify reasons to choose death, I will not feel safe from social and internalised coercion to make free choices. Until we look deeply at our attitudes to disability and terminal illness, I do not yet feel ready to have this legislation imposed upon me."