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letters | DEBATING ‘DEATH WITH DIGNITY’

Question based on dangerous premise

I REALLY appreciated Jeff Jacoby’s column, “What about do no harm?” (Op-ed, Oct. 17). As he points out, the fundamental premise behind the Massachusetts “Death with Dignity” ballot measure is “that certain lives aren’t worth living.” This premise is what makes the ballot measure disability-discriminatory.

The ballot question’s discriminatory premise is why it is so infuriating to many in disability-rights circles. This bill is only granting “physician-assisted suicide” to one class of people: those who are considered “ill.” It would be one thing to legalize assisted-suicide for all consenting adults, but we are singling out one group of people who are already devalued by society. If we as a society value the right to die then allow it for everyone, not just the old, ill, and disabled.

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The very title of this ballot measure further devalues this aforesaid group. It presumes that when people lose control over their bowels, bladders, or ability to breathe without a machine then they are without dignity. These kinds of ableist assumptions are precisely what take away the aspect of choice that those who are for the ballot measure speak to.

In a society that undervalues the old, the ill, and the disabled, the idea of choice is in fact an illusion.

If our society first provided this category of people with the assistance, support, and medical care they needed and valued them as a class, then (and only then) could it be seen as a choice.

Lastly, even if the measure could provide choices to some individuals, it is not acceptable to legally devalue an entire class of people in order to provide choices to a select few.

Laurie Carlson

Salem

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