I realize this blog is usually pretty light-hearted, laid back, irreverent, would one say...snarky even? But there are times when I believe some serious reflection is in order. I read an article today that deeply disturbed me, and I would love to get the Wheel-World fans' (are there any of you left since I've so recklessly abandoned you?) opinions on this.
The headline goes, a 23-year-old British rugby player, Dan James, was injured and paralyzed from the chest down. He was (obviously) distressed by the injury, and this week his parents took him to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland where he (we can assume) committed assisted suicide.
Now, most of my information is coming from the UK Times Online, so I can't vouch for its veracity or objectivity. Apparently, his parents, who are under investigation in the UK because there, assisted suicide is illegal, drove him to the facility in Switzerland and supported his "decision."
The UK Times quotes his mother as saying, about the social worker who reported her and her husband, "I hope that one day I will get the chance to speak to this lady and ask if she had a son, daughter, father, mother, who could not walk, had no hand function, was incontinent, and relied upon 24 hour care for every basic need and they had asked her for support, what would she have done?"
My first thought is, I wish she had asked my mother that question. But my second thought is that I cannot judge Dan. He underwent a traumatic, life-changing event that not only stole his ability to be independent and his life as he knew it, but it also stole what was his passion, talent and life goal (i.e. Rugby). I understand all of that, and I understand that I could never understand what it would be to have a severe disability forced on you as a young adult.
All of that being said, could his parents really have just accepted and assisted his "decision"? Would we praise parents who would support their child's suicidal tendencies if that child suffered from severe mental illness (i.e. depression, alcoholism, or bipolar disease)? What if an individual was severely depressed and distraught by a traumatic event (i.e. loss of a child or spouse, or survival of a rape or attempted murder)? Would we condone allowing that person to "choose" suicide - would we support and advance that "choice"? It is a truly difficult subject to broach, but I can't help but feel uneasy about this tendency we have to so fear and loathe physical injury and disability that we would think that one might be better off not living.
These are serious ethical dilemmas. I understand that euthanasia is a favorite dilemma of the amateur philosopher, and perhaps under some circumstances, there is reasonable room for debate. But in this case, Dan was not terminally ill. He was not choosing to be taken off of artificial life support. He was paralyzed and he was in pain and he was depressed. If I may be so bold as to have an opinion on such a sensitive and personal matter, I think this tragedy is a sad commentary on our society's view of disability. For his family to say - and accept - that "he was not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence," is chilling.
My apologies to all, but I don't think my existence is second class. My only hope is that someday more of the rest of the world will agree.
RIP Dan James. May God please help others in similar positions to see hope through the despair; and may the world see that disabilities are not tragedies, but trials over which we can triumph.