In Burlington, NC a Deaf man was repeatedly stabbed by a gang-banger who mistook American Sign Language for gang signs. The bonehead responsible has been charged with intent to kill as well as other crimes. (from the Crimesider)
In Denmark, deaf twin brothers committed suicide (assisted suicide, no less) because they were losing their vision and decided that their suffering was too great to bear. (Huffington Post)
Today I spent 5 hours with a Deaf-Blind consumer; a brilliant individual with a wonderfully quirky and
unique outlook on life (don’t we all?) and we discussed the suicides.
We were both profoundly saddened that Denmark – while offering assisted suicide – apparently does not offer therapy to help individuals adjust to loss and go on with happy and productive lives after losing a sense.
Imagine if Helen Keller had decided life was simply too great a burden to bear. Imagine the loss to the world were that bright light to have extinguished herself.
It brings to mind the quote from the book Dune that is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
I am actually all for assisted suicide if the person is suffering from a terminal illness, there is no hope, and there is great pain or debilitation which cannot be alleviated. These men did not have a terminal illness, they had an incurable disease process. My guess it that they had Usher’s syndrome and could have been fitted with Cochlear Implants and taught to hear as they were going blind. They could have been given the gift of tactile sign, been taught braille, and given hope and support rather than a final exit. All I can do is murmur an ancient Celtic blessing for the dead. May the Nature Spirits guide them home; may the Honoured Dead welcome them among them; may the High Ones grant them rest, and rebirth in due time. As it was as it is, as it will be. There will be a returning for them.
So on the one hand, we have a Deaf man almost murdered by a knife-wielding imbecile in a street gang who is too stupid or drugged out – or both – to recognize the difference between the fourth most commonly spoken language in America and gang signs ~ and on the other hand we have two men with everything to live for who find living a life with a new limitation is too much to bear.
What are we teaching people around the world (not just here) regarding the differently abled among us? That life without full sensory awareness is life without meaning and therefore life that should be ended?