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When death is certain, but killing is now called "Dignity"

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Lilibeth Navarro, Executive Director of Communities Actively Living Independent and Free in response to LA Times columnist Steve Lopez's piece When death is certain, but dignity is not.

(* Lillibeth, Founder & Executive Director of CALIF, the independent living center serving the 50 zip codes of Los Angeles currently serves on the Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC) as officer-at-large and part of the Executive Committee. In 2009, the CA Speaker of the House, Karen Bass appointed her to the California Commission on Disability Access where she was appointed Chair of the Accessibility Enhancement Committee. Her appointment was confirmed by Assembly Speaker John Perez in January 2011.)

Beware the logic of the sleek who can argue that good is bad and that bad is good. They have successfully argued that babies are a barrier to a woman's freedom and that killing them is a civil right under the US Constitution. Next target: people with terminal or chronic illnesses and people at the brink of death from a catastrophic event. They are saying that since the terminally or chronically ill suffer too much and get real relief only from death, denying death is denying their "dignity", a glib and cleaned up version of killing through assisted suicide. We, who are targets, better fight ferociously with our lives, this time, banging heads with homeless advocate Steve Lopez and his campaign to bring back to the table the debate on assisted suicide in California, an issue we have successfully staved off for years.

In his column, "When death is certain and dignity is not" Steve Lopez starts with a dramatic picture of his Dad slipping and breaking his hip, his mother compelled to accompany him and both of them sleeping on the floor until the paramedics arrive. Proceeding to argue that the broken hip is the beginning of his father's loss of total health and vitality and equating that to a tragedy, he projects his prolonged suffering, equating that to a lack of dignity, and aims for the conclusion of his argument. He posits that until his father is allowed to die or be killed with assisted suicide, he is being denied his "dignity" and oh, what an outrageous shame California is bringing on its people!

Not so fast Steve! I do not want people making maudlin projections on my life and concluding that with "compassion", I should be spared from it with a lethal drug cocktail that delivers my final exit. No way! Hospitals scare me and I now have to wear a blue rubber bracelet that says, "Do not kill me, please provide nutrition and hydration". The culture has gone so far south on this issue that the presumption now is that I would rather be left to die because I have a chronic condition—polio and its late effects, I survived cancer and have diabetes and a couple of other health challenges. By your definition, I do suffer a lot but no, I do not need to be spared from it because I have learned to live with it—even thrive nicely from it. I have a loving family and support system of friends, co-workers and caregivers who make sure I stay as healthy and vital as possible. I breathe on a respirator at night and 24 volts of battery power provide me with mobility. It is and it was a pro-life societal mindset that made sure all these supports are in place and a short sighted, cost-cutting and bankrupt economic downturn is now doing all it can to destroy this safety net. This argument that our lives are too much of a punishment relieved only with "dignified death" is not helping either. Rather, it strengthens the argument that in this economy, there are such things as "useless" users of economic resources that need to be put away with compassion. I do not want people at the hospital do away with me and many of my brothers and sisters like me.

And let's go back to semantics again. A dignitary is one who you respect and provide for all the amenities needed when s/he visits a country. You do that because he or she is a distinguished guest and caring for a guest by giving the best is reflective of your culture. The concept of "dignity" here is your providing the basic comforts and beyond to an honored guest. Watch how the same word "dignity" suddenly morphs into its opposite meaning in the assisted suicide debate and it is used cleverly but in the dark implementation of its opposite i.e., actually, the withdrawal of the basic comforts and supports due a living, breathing human being, the withdrawal of food and water, for starters! Watch the sleek who can make the bad sound so good, Steve! I am not, for one minute, being fooled!

Lillibeth Navarro

Executive Director

Communities Actively Living Independent & Free (CALIF)

(213) 627-0477, Voice

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