In the Netherlands giving lethal injections to severely disabled babies or starving them is no longer headline news, as newborn euthanasia is clearly allowed under the so-called 2004 Groningen Protocol. The stunning novelty of this week’s statement is that it says that the parents’ suffering may be a reason to kill the newborn.
Euthanasia or assisted suicide, even if officially ‘voluntary’, cause the disabled to fear for their future. Dr John Fox writes, “vague, or even specific, safeguards, are inadequate to the task of protecting us in a society increasingly tempted to do the easy thing. It’s easy to say “if you don’t believe in the choice, don’t make it” but this ignores the effect creating the category already has on our country, and on how it values the disabled.”
Abelism is a prejudice for the able-bodied and against the disabled. Carol Cleigh Sutton says euthanasia and assisted suicide send a message to the disabled that sometimes “an individual may be better off dead than disabled.”
Legislatures should reject legalised euthanasia as an inappropriate route to relief of suffering. But they should also ask questions about their own health care policies and practices as potential contributors to requests for euthanasia. How to treat every life as valuable and deliver excellent care? How to strengthen palliative care?
The International Disability and Human Rights Network believes that, on balance, euthanasia legislation is a very risky move with grave implications for people with disabilities.
Ben Mattlin, a 55 year old with spinal muscular atrophy, says “To me, just having the state condone the option of unburdening others is tantamount to more than a green light. To the most vulnerable, it’s a kick in the pants.”
Craig Wallace is convenor of Lives Worth Living, a disability advocacy group speaking out about euthanasia and eugenics. People with disabilities are already overlooked in our healthcare system, and euthanasia laws will only make things worse.