An Open Letter to Andrew Denton

Dear Andrew,

I’ve written you a poem at the end of this letter. And before you tell me that my poem is not relevant to the assisted suicide debate, read this: Hospital Says Sorry For Do Not Resuscitate Order On Man With Down’s Syndrome.

I do not think it is likely that you will ever read this post, but if you do, I want you to know that I was once a massive fan of yours. In my heart of hearts, I still am. Your public persona has been witty, compassionate, intelligent and yes, I find you excellent looking. I was very sad to see the end of Enough Rope, but fortunate enough to have flown to Sydney to watch a taping.

But these days, I am disappointed in the way you have publicly handled the euthanasia debate. Not because I consider you to be on the wrong side of it, but for a host of other reasons. Your bias in this debate is every bit as strong as that of disability advocates. You have about (give or take now) eight months of research into the nitty gritty. I saw you on Q and A; by the middle to the end, you struggled/failed to let others who’ve worked in their respective professions for YEARS finish their sentences. It was a time-limited panel. Even if you were, objectively, 100% accurate in everything you said (you weren’t), that was just frustrating to watch.

It didn’t make you sound well-researched and more knowledgeable than these people; it made you sound too emotionally invested. Which I get; I wouldn’t be writing an open letter to you if I wasn’t too emotionally invested myself. I just think the honest thing for you to do would be to admit that you are grossly underqualified to state categorically that changing the euthanasia laws will have minimal impact on people with a disability, eugenics concerns, etc.

I am not in a position to comment on euthanasia for people experiencing terminal illness, extraordinary pain and who are compos mentis enough to make their own decision to die. Here, I will work with the assumption that this is the most humane thing to give people the power to do.

But until we address the underlying societal belief that people with a disability are better off dead (Down Syndrome listed as a DNR reason, anyone? Discussing abortions for fetuses instead of support measures once a baby is born based on the knowledge they will have Down Syndrome?), euthanasia laws ARE a slippery slope. To say otherwise demonstrates ignorance. And you are not an ignorant man.

And, given that you’ve spent eight or so months researching mostly euthanasia and a little bit of the disability side of things where it relates to euthanasia – I invite you to spend the next eight months researching general attitudes on disability. Starting with a fetus, ending with a person in hospital. Somewhere in the middle, we have wages a little over $1 an hour for workers with an intellectual disability, as well as other tidbits of evidence that show how much professionals value the lives of people with disability.

You would hope that doctors would be the shining exception to this cruel rule of devaluation. But they’re not.

Let me know what you find.

Sincerely,

Your biggest/most dismayed fan

Katy

~~~

If we know a bub
Will have disability
Should we abort it?

If we know a kid
Has a disability
“Special”, separate school?

If someone’s dying
And has disability
Should we let them die?

Until these questions
Sound repulsive to your ear

Until these questions
Turn your insides out with fear

Don’t talk to me
About assisted suicide.

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