Opening the door to death for the disabled

The BBC documentary, Better Off Dead, could not have been given a more apt title. Presented by disabled actor and comedian Liz Carr, famous for her role in Silent Witness, the programme highlighted the vulnerability of people like her to other people viewing them as “better off dead”.

It illustrated, in the starkest terms, that for the disabled, “assisted dying” is a disaster waiting to happen. Although, as Ms Carr shows, this disaster has already happened in a wide swathe of countries around the world, most notoriously in Canada, where “Medical Assistance in Dying” (“MAiD”) was introduced in 2016.

Canada has seen 45,000 deaths under this programme, over 13,000 of them in 2022, and is now veering down the slippery slope, from “assisted dying” only for the terminally ill, towards assisted suicide/euthanasia for those suffering but not dying, as well as for the mentally ill and “mature minors”. And, as she also shows, this “boon” for the weak and vulnerable is now bestowed upon those facing poverty and homelessness. Not to mention hopelessness, for disabled people tend to give up hope when they are told that it will take longer to access help to live than help to die.

Advocates argue that “assisted dying” should be legal as an “insurance policy” in case they become sick and/or disabled and are suffering unbearably; but wherever “the right to die” is legalised, the right to care is seriously diminished, while giving everybody else the right not to care. And when that happens, inevitably, there are even more applicants for “assisted death”.

Anyone experiencing disability and/or sickness and old age will know the fear of becoming a burden, and in 2023 in Oregon — where the number of assisted suicides has rocketed — more people sought it because of such fears: nearly half (43.3%) reported their concern about being a ‘“[b]urden on family, friends/caregivers”’, while 8.2% were “concerned about the ‘[f]inancial implications of treatment”’, 88.3% “were concerned about reduced ability ‘to engage in activities making life enjoyable”’, “91.6% mentioned concerns about ‘losing autonomy”’ and “63.8% said they were concerned about loss of dignity.” 

In a recent article, journalist Matthew Paris proposed that people should be made aware of how much their care costs the nation. In other words, those dependent upon others for their care should be made to feel burdensome.

In addition to such frank admissions of the potential savings to the state from medical killing, there are fears about the danger of empowering homicidal “helpers” like medical mass-murderer Dr Harold Shipman and notorious neonatal nurse Lucy Letby — but also officially-approved killing under the Liverpool Care Pathway, and more recently, during Covid, the blanket signing of “Do Not Resuscitate” orders in care homes for the elderly and disabled. Regardless, campaigners speak blithely about “strict safeguards”, although we now know that such “safeguards” are included merely as a prelude to dismantling them after the “assisted dying” law has been passed.Advocates ignore such dangers, along with the objections, articulated so well by Ms Carr, of those individuals and groups most at risk from its legalisation, while continuing to spread fear about the danger of people dying in agony. We would all like some sort of “insurance policy” against future sickness and disability, but the obvious solution to this problem is to campaign for better treatments, and better end-of-life care, which at present is not guaranteed for all who need it.2

Those already grappling with these very real problems fear that it would be much easier to access killing than care. Canadian doctor Ellen Wiebe, interviewed by Liz Carr, has killed over 400 people, and boasted of enjoying her “work” — so much so that she could not help laughing about it, something that did not recommend her to viewers. She also suggested that Ms Carr was “cruel” for denying death to the disabled; apparently, it is now considered evil to save lives, demonstrating how far we have strayed into the territory of Friedrich Nietzsche and his “transvaluation of values”, in seeing good as evil and evil as good.

Self-killing is now portrayed as an act of self-determination, an essential choice; no doubt it would eventually be declared a human right, even though death means the end of all rights and all choice. Significantly, we do not tell suicidal people that killing themselves is an act of self-determination and support their right to self-immolation. We still try to prevent suicide in the general population, but it is instructive that “ordinary” suicides tend to increase wherever assisted suicide is legal.

 And indeed, if people can be “helped to die” because they are facing imminent death, why not extend this “right” to those who can see no end to their mental suffering? Once we accept that death is the answer to suffering, the question goes from “why?” to “why not?” From being the last resort, suicide becomes the first. Significantly, Liz Carr paused on a bridge displaying a notice giving contact details for the suicide prevention organisation, the Samaritans, offering help to anyone feeling desperate enough to try to end their lives.  

In the past year or so, the “right to die” campaign has certainly succeeded in increasing the mental suffering of those of us who are sick and/or disabled, as we have had to endure their high-powered, relentless and deeply depressing campaign for “assisted dying”.

In Silent Witness, Liz Carr plays the forensic examiner whose task it is to discover the causes of death in individuals, thereby helping to discover who caused the death. Her documentary on “assisted dying” has, it seems, uncovered those groups and individuals who quite openly cause, or wish to cause, death to the disabled. The revelation is long overdue, but better late than never. Once the door to death is prised open, it would soon be thrown wide — and then it would indeed be too late, for it would be almost impossible to close.


  1. https://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2024/03/assisted-suicide-is-wrong-prescription.html
  2. https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/45649