CW: Assisted Suicide
Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day. As a person who lives with Cerebral Palsy, assisted suicide scares me. When Jerika Bolen, who had SMA, chose to end her life in 2016, her community hosted a prom for her. While I have no issue with Bolen’s decision, the way, the community acted bothered me. Would a non-disabled teen who decided to end their life have a prom hosted for them as if it was a celebratory occasion? Do people think that living with a disability is worse than death?
The movie Me Before You debuted in theaters in 2016. The movie is based on Jojo Moyes’ book of the same name. Will, a man in his twenties who becomes paralyzed after an accident, is the film’s protagonist. After falling in love, he uses assisted suicide to end his life. According to the plot of the film and book, Will’s decision to end his life at the age of 26 is solely motivated by his inability to live as a quadriplegic.
In Canada, forced poverty is one of the reasons why some people opt to end their life through assisted suicide. In February, a woman died by suicide under the country’s assisted suicide law after being denied affordable housing to help ease her serious health condition. Because she was also unable to work, she received $1,169 per month, putting her considerably below the poverty level in Canada’s most populous and expensive province.
It should not be easier for disabled people to die than to live. Housing that is both accessible and affordable should be widely available. In February 2020, Apartment List conducted a study using information from the American Community Survey and the American Housing Survey. Only 9% of households with a disabled family member reside in an accessible home, the study finds. Just 6% of homes in America are accessible, even though more than 15% of households include a member who is physically disabled.
Disability benefits must also offer a living income. People should be able to purchase food and other basics. Nobody should go hungry or live without electricity or running water.
People with disabilities can live meaningful lives. We can go to school, own businesses, have kids, fall in love, and buy homes. Sure, life with a disability is challenging at times, but disabled lives aren’t always sad. We need support that goes beyond recommending assisted suicide.
Broverman, Aaron. “Paralyzed Teen Jerika Bolen Dies, as Planned.” New Mobility, New Mobility, 23 Sept. 2016, https://newmobility.com/paralyzed-teen-jerika-bolen-dies/.
Charron, Jeremie. “’I Feel so Happy’: This Ottawa Man Had His Hydro Turned Back on after 8 Years.” CTV News, CTV News, 31 Aug. 2022, https://beta.ctvnews.ca/local/ottawa/2022/8/31/1_6050785.amp.html.
Cecco, Leyland. “Are Canadians Being Driven to Assisted Suicide by Poverty or Healthcare Crisis?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 11 May 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/11/canada-cases-right-to-die-laws.
LaMotte, Sandee. “World Suicide Prevention Day: Here’s How to Help in 2021.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 Sept. 2021, http://www.cnn.com/2021/09/10/health/world-suicide-prevention-day-2021-wellness/index.html.
Warnock, Rob. “How Accessible Is the Housing Market?” Apartment List , Apartment List, 19 February, 2020, http://www.apartmentlist.com/research/how-accessible-is-the-housing-market.