Philip Patston’s comments about people with disabilities having the same rights as the fully-abled made me think about other self-esteem issues. It has been claimed that groups of people in our society will develop feelings of inadequacy and lose their sense of personal worth once Medical Aid in Dying becomes legal. Apparently, this loss of self-esteem will be particularly prevalent amongst disabled people and the elderly. I am fortunate that I have full use of my body but I am aging. In other words, according to this belittling point of view, I am expected to gradually lose my current self-esteem and decide there is nothing left to me other than death. It is even suggested that I will see it as my duty to die.
Claims of this sort attempt to diminish me and other older folk. They would have me believe that my ideas no longer matter simply because I am getting older, that the decisions of older people are no longer valid or worthy of attention. This perspective appears to underpin the way the elderly, the disabled and the terminally ill are viewed by those opposing End of Life Choice. Put another way, if you are calling for the compassionate and regulated use of Medical Aid in Dying, you must be delusional and therefore your views should be dismissed.
In fact, I hope to become increasingly vocal and irritatingly forceful in continuing to advocate for a just society as I grow older. But, how can I be sure of this?
One reason is that I have been lucky enough to spend time in the company of a number of older people – women mostly, who are the feistiest and most formidable people you could hope to meet. I am thinking particularly of one of our members in Auckland who died recently. Although well into her nineties, until a couple of months ago she was still working as a volunteer on Tiritiri Matangi, playing a mean game of table tennis in her retirement village and supporting the End-of-Life Choice movement in every way she could. Others I know are not so physically active but equally strong in their own ideas and secure in their own identities. These women fill me with courage and I am proud to stand at their side. We will not be forced into a diminished view of ourselves by those who oppose freedom of Choice in life or in death.