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Free to Choose to Die

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The disability "rights" group Not Dead Yet, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and like-minded groups are upset by the movie Million Dollar Baby [Hot Type, January 28]. They say it perpetuates the view that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm sure that will be the message some people will take from this movie. Others will take a different message, which is that we ought to respect a person's free-will choice and that we ought to help people deal with their suffering in accordance with that choice.

If I have a severe, permanent illness or disability, there is only one person who should get to decide whether I live or die. And that person is me. Clint Eastwood shouldn't get to decide. But neither should Not Dead Yet.

As a society we ought to throw our support behind people who choose to live and thrive as long as they can with a severe illness or disability. They are heroic. They are an inspiration. We shouldn't stand in their way. But we also ought to support people who make a different choice, who choose to hasten their death rather than endure suffering. And we ought to allow others to help them hasten their death, if that is their choice and if it will make the death easier for the person.

What Not Dead Yet is saying is that we should support only the former choice and not the latter. According to Not Dead Yet, everyone ought to be forced into the same value system. Everyone ought to be forced to stay alive, even those people whose value system would lead them toward an earlier death with less suffering. Not Dead Yet is not a "rights" group. If it truly believed in rights, it would stand by the right of choice for every person with a permanent disability or illness, no matter what that person's choice may be.

Eleven years ago my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he chose to commit suicide rather than deteriorate slowly over the course of weeks or months. He greatly valued his independence and his ability to take care of himself. Was it wrong that he valued these things more than he valued staying alive without these things? Lots of people say yes, it was wrong. And everyone has a right to their own opinion. But no one had the right to impose his/her opinion on my dad in his final days. It sickens me that if Not Dead Yet had had its way it would have forced my dad to stay alive and live a life he didn't want to live--all in the name of "protecting his rights." I strongly oppose the efforts of Not Dead Yet to place limits on people's freedom to choose.

Mike Lewis

N. Sheridan

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