Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oh Those Poor, Helpless, Vulnerable, Duped, Coerced, Unprotected Seniors!

Don't get me wrong. I think it's easy to take advantage of seniors. They are from a generation that processed information differently than ours, the world of their middle years is in many respects long gone. Just think: they've known times before TV!

But all the hand-wringing over the sad plight of vulnerable seniors is a bit infantalizing, no? I completely empathize with seniors who are being told that the state and the church and the medical profession are only looking out for their best interests by telling them how to die. I really do!

I'm a woman, after all. I've been told how to screw, dress, talk, eat, look, and care for my body for a long time. And by the same patriarchal systems that are bossing seniors around.

When I see articles like this one from Anglican Mainstream I want to say, Hey, Give seniors some credit! Value their wisdom, self-determination, and autonomy! And stop counting all seniors as disabled or impaired beyond the ability to make health decisions for themselves! Geesh.

The article refers to the current kerfluffle in Britain that puts poor Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, between a rock of a conservative contingent hell-bent on imposing their ideology on the rest of the population and the hard place patients who simply want to have their rights upheld. The chaos started over the summer when Debbie Purdy won the right to have her husband assist her travels to Switzerland for aid in dying, without the threat of prosecution when he returns. It's not that Omar wants to kill his wife. And it's not that Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, wants to die. But she knows it comes and she wants to decide how.

Now, since the courts upheld Purdy's cause, Starmer's been since scrambling to review the assisted suicide prosecutorial guidelines. Try enforcing patients' rights when you've got the "pro-life" coalition, so deeply invested in imposing its ideology on patients, breathing down your neck.

The group says that the new guidance is ‘not fit for purpose’. They signed up to a hard-hitting response to the proposals from campaign group Care Not Killing, in which it warns that changes to the law could mean that the lives of stroke-sufferers, disabled people and those with arthritis, could be at risk.
(See also their letter to The Times)
The Daily Telegraph reports that the group’s response says:
‘Among the factors proposed as tending against prosecution are that the deceased was seriously ill or incurably disabled or had a history of suicide attempts. In Care Not Killing’s view these proposals are discriminatory as well as dangerous.’
The proposal that serious illness or disability might be a mitigating factor in whether to prosecute someone for assisting a suicide ‘flies in the face of the declared will of Parliament’, which has twice in the past four years rejected legalisation on assisted suicide in such cases.
Peter Saunders, the director of Care Not Killing, said:
‘The current law acts as a powerful deterrent against abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people and has been firmly upheld by Parliament.
‘Removing these safeguards could lead to increase in vulnerable and disabled people being pressured into ending their lives.’

It will be interesting to see if the British have any more sense for patients' rights than we've got here in the US. Which means basically none. Just don't, whatever you do, get arthritis!

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