Murder, Not Mercy

by Cara Liebowitz

They’re trying to kill us.

More specifically, they’re trying to kill me.

Please spare me your platitudes about how you’re not trying to kill me, of course not!  “You’re one of the lucky ones.” you tell me.  “We only want to put the severely disabled out of their misery.”  Implicit in this argument is the assumption that I couldn’t possibly be severely disabled, because I have a voice.  I’m actively arguing against you.

But you don’t know me.  You don’t know a thing about me.  I could be a full time powerchair user, I could be fed through a g-tube, I could be using a communication device.  And the truth is, I’m none of those things.  But I could be.  And even if I was?  I’d still be happy.  And I certainly wouldn’t want to be dead.

You say you want to end the lives of those who are suffering.  Well, if that’s true, then you want to kill me.  Am I suffering?  Absolutely.  Not from my CP, but from the pain that plagues me every day.  The pain could go away tomorrow and I wouldn’t miss it.  But I’d still rather be in pain than dead.  And I’d like to make that choice myself, thank you very much.

You say you’d rather die than be like us.  Like me.  And that’s sad, because you have no idea what our lives are really like.  But that’s your choice.  Those people you killed – directly or indirectly – they didn’t have that choice.  Tracy didn’t have a choice.  George didn’t have a choice.  And that’s what you really want, isn’t it?  That’s your definition of “severely disabled” – incapable of expressing their choice the usual way, the right way, the normal way, so you pretend to be a noble hero and make that choice for them.

I can speak.  I can say “Stop!” when someone is trying to hurt me.  But after I’m dead, will you pretend I couldn’t?  Will you exploit the hardships of my life in order to perpetuate the idea that bodies like ours are broken?  Will you even acknowledge that I was happy, and yes, even proud, just the way I was?

You call it mercy.  I call it murder.

On Friday night, I stood in a dimly lit park, surrounded by my friends, my brothers, my sisters in the fight against ableism.  I held a candle up to the sky in memory of all of my disabled brethren who were cruelly snatched, against their will, from this world.  Not because of the natural path of illness or injury, not even because of a tragic accident.  No, these people were not with us because someone willfully, purposely, decided that their lives were not worth living.  Someone actively decided to kill them.  All in the name of “mercy” and a twisted sense of moral obligation.  If their lives were not cut short, who knows?  They might have been at that vigil with us, joining hands and hearts, building a sense of community among disabled people of extraordinarily diverse backgrounds.   But we have no way of knowing – because someone decided they didn’t deserve to live.

As a group, we must rise up.  As a group, we must protest, in any way, shape or form that we can.  We cannot let these murders go unnoticed.  The time has passed to be nice, and polite, and grateful for the scraps of humanity that society throws in our direction.  We must demand our personhood, and we must demand it now.  Because if we are too afraid to stand for our rights, if we turn our backs on these atrocities because we are terrified that if we speak up, they will kill us too and blame it on our pitiful suffering, this will keep happening.  It already has.

They’re trying to kill us.

They’re trying to kill me.

And I’m scared.

*All three videos are captioned. Please let us know if there’s a problem.
**You can read the poem that Lydia Brown is reading in the last video at http://autistichoya.blogspot.com/2012/03/not-human-anymore-is-this-what-ally.html

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Representations of “Mercy Killing”

by Jenna Clark

The media discusses “mercy killing” as if it’s an acceptable part of human behavior.  As a person with a disability — as a human being — I find this trend disturbing.

A few weeks ago, 22-year-old George Hodgins was killed by his mother before she turned the gun on herself.  And because George was autistic, news reports largely portrayed this horrible murder-suicide as a tragedy — for the mother. In many articles, George is not even mentioned by name.  His personhood is discarded as an unnecessary side note in a bigger picture.

The only difference our society sees between murder and “mercy killing” is the perception about whose life has worth.  But who makes that decision?  Whose definition of “worth” are we subscribing to, or is the definition given a fluidity depending on the specific circumstances?

In 1993, Robert Latimer murdered his 12-year-old daughter Tracy by exposing her to lethal levels of carbon monoxide. She was left in the cab of a truck, the engine running and the exhaust pipe funneling the fatal gas into a place from which she had no escape.  Is this act less horrific because Tracy had cerebral palsy?  Or is it worse because while others could try and escape, she couldn’t?  Would it be “mercy” if a parent murdered their diabetic child?  How about a child with dyslexia?

Are we, as a society, even trying to see life from another’s perspective?

Differences are never a justification for murder. If we want to discuss the woefully underfunded and often missing services for people with disabilities, great. But whatever gap in services may or may not be present, murder is murder.  And a supposed “mercy killing” says a lot about how society sees me.

It says that as a person with a disability, my life has less inherent value than a person with no disabilities. That George and Tracy and all the others murdered aren’t afforded the same justice as other victims of violent crime.

In the case of George Hodgins, what is being discussed is the hardship disability posed upon his mother. But what about George, the family that loves and misses him, and the friends who mourn his loss?

Without a national discussion, this problem won’t go away.  Right now, the discussion is being replaced by the majority’s uninformed assumptions about life with a disability.  But guess what?

We are people.

We are equals.

And we demand equality.