Not Dead Yet
What is Not Dead Yet of GA about?
We’re about protecting disabled and older people from assisted suicide, lethal medical neglect, involuntary withdrawal of life-sustaining medical care and encouragement to die.
But what if someone wants to die? Are you trying to force people to live when they don’t want to?
No. Ultimately that’s not possible. And even if we could, we wouldn’t.
Suppose someone is in the last stages of a terminal illness and then has a heart attack. Are you saying they should be shocked back to life through aggressive, painful measures?
Not if they don’t want to be. We ourselves would probably direct not to be resuscitated in that case. Any person can refuse surgery, dialysis, or other medical interventions, even antibiotics. But we’re aware that sometimes conditions mislabeled ‘last stages’ are far from last, and sometimes conditions mislabeled ‘terminal’ are merely incurable, like many of our own conditions.
Why are you so adamant about your mission?
Because our lives and the lives of our disabled friends and loved ones are in danger. There’s a crucial difference between the freedom to end one’s own life, which cannot be denied, and the freedom to have others end one’s life, which endangers the lives of a class of people less valued by society.
When you’re a member of a group offered help to die, and a group designated not to receive medical help given to others, it’s easy to start believing you don’t deserve to live. And it’s realistic to fear you will not receive life-protecting medical help in an emergency room, hospital or nursing home.
We seek equal access to suicide prevention and equal access to medical care.
But what about people whose disability puts them in a position where they can’t kill themselves, like a quadriplegic or a person with severe dementia? Isn’t it cruel not to help them die?
There are several ways a quadriplegic could kill him- or herself. The person with dementia may not want to die. People who want to kill themselves must take responsibility for their own suicide, and people who believe they don’t want to live under certain circumstances must give clear, written advance directives about the medical treatments they do and do not want. Otherwise they add to the attitudes, policies, practices and laws that endanger the lives of others.
Besides not permitting disabled or old people to be killed, what can people do to protect lives? Recognize that quality of life is not fixed -– it varies depending on the presence or absence of help, pain management, love, respect and money. Support high quality of life by advocating for policies that provide the help disabled people need to survive and then to thrive, in their individual ways. Actively challenge media pieces that imply ‘better dead than disabled’ or call for no jail time when a distraught person kills a disabled family member. And support policies and practices promoting a high quality of life for non-disabled people—so that no one needs to envy or resent a good quality of life for disabled or older people.
Are you a politically right-wing organization?
No. Most of us are progressive/ left-of-center and most of us have disabilities. We are dismayed that many friends on the left, and organizations like the ACLU, frame death-dealing practices against people with disabilities as simple personal ‘choice’ and ignore the impact of social devaluing and discrimination. At the same time, we experience the disconcerting reality that the right wing, whose practices we generally oppose, are often our only allies resisting assisted suicide and euthanasia, while simultaneously calling for cuts in the health care we need to stay alive and the help we need to live independently in our communities.