Of course, that’s a completely barbaric conclusion to jump to.
But if you were to really sit back and listen to what some of the most compelled and very loud activists against David Seymour’s bill have to say, I wouldn’t blame you for having a bit of a chuckle at the notion that this is the very eventuality some are predicting.
With that said, the decision that awaits New Zealanders in the upcoming weeks is an important one, and it’s really no laughing matter.
As one disabled person living in this country and someone that likes to try and tackle some of the most important issues facing people like me through blogs and articles on the internet, I feel it’s now the right time for me to put pen to paper.
The debate around this bill has been so fierce, so emotional, and sadly, riddled with so much miss-truth and scaremongering. I’ve attempted to promise myself on many occasions that I just wouldn’t go here, for my own sanity if nothing else.
Before I get into why I am going to vote yes and why I feel some of the passionate disabled people in my community have spread dangerous propaganda in order to suit their own morality and personal brands, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.
I won’t be responding to any feedback to this blog, be that positive or negative. No matter how well-crafted, passionate or otherwise, please don’t expect a response. If you do, best stop reading now.
I just don’t have the time or the energy to try and justify what is an argument that comes from a very personal place for all of us, and as recent experiences have sadly made me realize, I am not going to open myself up to being called certain names or have my credibility as a disability rights advocate questioned by people who simply don’t know me nor understand how much I’ve tried to challenge my own viewpoints on this matter.
I’ll give you an example as to why I’ve made this decision.
About three or so months ago, well-known advocate Dr. Huhana Hickey labelled me a fascist supporter of the Nazi agenda when I attempted to speak up in support of a disabled man who spoke in support of this bill on social media. When I challenged Dr. Hickey and publicly expressed my disgust at her comment toward me, she blocked me from all social media platforms.
That’s some fine behaviour from a well-seasoned advocate and human rights lawyer with experience that exceeds my years on this earth, and on a personal front, someone I respected and actually admired until that point.
At that moment, I was all but done with this whole disability advocacy thing.
Last week, a source informed me that Dr. Hickey had actually shared an article I wrote for The Spinoff but couldn’t bring herself to credit myself for writing it – pretty disappointing considering her well-publicized views on the lack of interest in the disabled community by politicians and that I had also credited her own efforts in this space in that same article.
For the record, this is not an attack on Dr. Hickey, she is entitled to be against the End of Life Choice Bill, as are all the others who’ve worked so tirelessly, but what she’s not entitled to are her own facts.
Speaking of facts, here is one fact.
I am NOT a fascist or a Nazi for saying that, yes, I believe assisted dying should be legal in New Zealand. Such comments, even if made in the heat of the moment and quickly deleted thereafter, are dangerous and unhealthy.
Here’s my take on the matter.
The issue, as it pertains to disabled people, isn’t with the actual End of Life Choice bill. Maybe I am just a dumb misinformed New Zealander, but to me, the criteria bit seems pretty clear when I read this bill.
The issue is the current systemic failings in the disability support system.
Almost every single disabled person who’s spoken out against the bill has noted this also, and their fear is understandably how these failings could lead people like ourselves to act as if euthanasia is the only option.
I understand that completely, but in my mind, that speaks to the work that needs to be done to change this system, not just address it and advocate, but to actually change it.
What this also speaks to is the profound lack of value that some disabled people feel like they have within their place in New Zealand, something that comes from countless frustrations when trying to access support, education, and employment plus discriminatory behaviour toward them by the ignorant.
There is a distinct lack of belief that the system will change for the better, which based on successive Government promises not being kept and constant difficulty right across the spectrum, is the logical reaction.
But there is a sticking point that is both acknowledged already but also inconvenient to certain agendas.
For as compelled and understandably passionate those representing the disability community who are against euthanasia in New Zealand come across, should the referendum not pass in October and the status quo remains, isn’t the disability community still going to be in the same place anyway?
The only difference is that euthanasia, assisted dying, or whatever you wish to call it, is now legal by law. Nothing else changes, just yet another reset I suspect.
If the law passes by way of vote, at least we’d live in a New Zealand where the option is available for those with less than six months to live (like your aunt or uncle with terminal bowel cancer) or people with conditions that leave them in such a state of decline that their basic day to day life is pure torture.
And even then, is there not a choice to even begin the process in the first place? I’m pretty sure there is, but as Kylee Black’s very well-made video on DefendNZ is titled, choice is a relative term.
Here’s the thing, life is also relative, and if we were to get back to the real issue with the discussion around this bill, what’s also relative is the ability those in the margins have to access life on an equal footing.
That’s not just those with disabilities, of course, my view is that we’re all products of the privilege and/or the distinct advantages/disadvantages to which was the environment we came from.
That’s backed in proof by the hundreds of disabled people I’ve met and talked with through my career as a journalist. Without a word of a lie, I can count on one hand the amount of them that would be coerced into signing up for euthanasia if this bill came into law, and trust me when I say, some of their particular health circumstances are far worse than what those whom the likes of DefendNZ and other groups have chosen to highlight.
If you were to listen to some in the disability community, you’d think that within just a couple of years of this bill coming into law, 1) the coercion from the non-disabled will get to such a level, or 2) people like me will be struggling to such a degree that we feel ending our lives is the best/only way, then that example might seem somewhat plausible.
There is no denying that the stats speak for themselves, and that’s where I agree with those against the bill such as Miss Black and Dr. Hickey. Where I’m skeptical is on who they speak for, because I’m sorry but they certainly don’t speak for me.
There is little to no doubt that disabled people are the most marginalized group in all of New Zealand and are reliant on Government-funded support systems that are woefully inadequate.
That’s the issue here, that’s where we need to focus our attention, because it’s here that the currently inadequate systems impact on us and us only. That’s where we are the ‘experts’.
The End of Life Choice bill and the upcoming referendum is an important discussion that stretches well beyond just disabled people. I will be voting yes, because I know this isn’t actually about me.
I know what my choice will be in life, I know my value in life, and I know that I’m damn sure not going to be coerced into anything by anybody.
We, as disabled people who feel vulnerable at every turn, don’t actually have the right to use our own morality and our own experiences to tell the nation why they should conform to what is a mindset based on personal experiences in a system that has failed those in the margins on countless occasions.
As it pertains to the disability community, my fear about how we deal with this remains high.
I fear that the discussion won’t change, I predict legal challenges will be made once the bill passes and could continue for many years post-election, and as scary as it might sound, I worry that many will continue some of the grossly unbalanced and inaccurate campaigns on social media that fuel the already high anxiety disabled people feel right now.