Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

A Right to a Dignified Self-Determined Death


Velveteen Rabbit by Donna Williams

Velveteen Rabbit by Donna Williams

When I have posted information about the right to a dignified, self-determined death, I find healthy young people with Asperger’s comment from a fear of Nazi like euthanasia.

Is it that their diagnosis comes from Hans Asperger who saved people from going to Nazi concentration camps by diagnosing them as having Asperger’s Syndrome and on that basis claiming them as intelligent and productive humans? Or it is part of the scare mongering of a culture needing a cause, something to fight, a shared foe, a shared threat? But when those with Asperger’s fight against the right of people dying in ways so inhumane no vet would leave an animal in this suffering. It’s all very easy to take this right wing view, this ‘slippery slide’ argument that permitting people a right to a dignified self determined death would lead to involuntary euthanasia and then Nazism. Water can drown people, cars can kill, tigers can eat people… but we’re not so ignorant that we ban water, cars, or tigers.

Many countries around the world already have services allowing people a self determined dignified early death and the terms of the use of such services so tightly worded in law that these projections and fears have not been realised. The right to a self determined and dignified death is an act of empathy. To project onto it that it will easily convert into an act of bigotry is the same as saying we should all fear water because it could one day be used to drown us.

Without upsetting too many folks some of the scenarios can include bleeding from the ears and crushing pain from end stage with brain tumor (happened to my cousins daughter), vomiting feces due to bowel obstruction in end stage bowel cancer (happened to the mothers of two friends of ours), resorting to shooting oneself in the head because of unbearable suffering (two of my relatives dying with bowel cancer did this), drowning in your own fluids as they seep profusely out of your skin leaving you insatiably thirsting and dehydrating (my cousin’s father had this with brain tumour)…

So when ‘Autistics’ think this would never be ‘them’, that somehow because they’re ‘Autistics’ that they’re immune from this ever being them, their brother, their mother, their child, their partner, their best friend… they are wrong. And one day, I already know there is a fair chance it may well be me… and if I find I am denied that right in my own country, I will know ‘Autistics’ fought against my right to a dignified self-determined death…. out of projection, paranoia, self interest and the need for some cultural glue to feel their group had a cause.

Autism will not make me immune to the same cancer deaths of such a high percentage of my relatives. ‘Autistics’ talk of fear of Nazi misuse of right to die but forget that a significant percental of us on the autism spectrum have immune disorders and that means we have less with which to hold back cancer than most people… and so we have a greater possibility of being the ones left to deal with our last 3 months of end stage cancer without a dignified option to go when we are ready and not have to watch ourselves completely frail, helpless, in pain…. now still feel like being dictatorial, oppositional, self righteous and political?

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.

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