No stranger to adversity, England’s Baroness Jane Campbell has been leading the fight for disability rights and against assisted suicide in her country for years. She was born with the most severe form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy and struggled to achieve every normal milestone she has ever accomplished.
In addition to her physical challenges, Campbell lost her father and her husband tragically at a young age, forcing her to choose between what she calls “a grey prospect predicted and presupposed by society,” and “a brighter future, in which I was empowered to defy all of society’s predictions.”
The Baroness chose the latter, and today she works tirelessly to uphold the dignity and rights of Great Britain’s disabled individuals as the founder of Not Dead Yet UK. Not Dead Yet is an alliance of disabled individuals who oppose the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia for the disabled.
Campbell was recently involved a debate of sorts published by the BBC, where she stood in opposition to assisted suicide. Her opinion was juxtaposed with that of John Grantham, whose disabled partner committed suicide. Campbell told the BBC:
Campaigners for a change in the law on assisted suicide present it as an extension of choice… When any other person seeks to end their life, we do not assist them. We help those with suicidal thoughts look for positives in their lives. I believe chronically ill and disabled people deserve that “right”, to be helped by us all to live their lives.
Campbell said that, as a severely disabled person herself, laws in favor of assisted suicide frighten her. “Many disabled people know first-hand how society fears illness and disability,” she said, pointing out that they are concerned about placing a burden on their caregivers. Campbell acknowledged that it is usually this fear of becoming a burden that prompts the disabled to view assisted suicide as a positive rather than the negative actions that it is.
“It is precisely because that is the majority view that we must continue to oppose it,” she said. Campbell also insists that there must be consistency in any assisted suicide legislation that is passed. The disabled cannot be granted the “right” to commit suicide unless the entire population — including healthy individuals — are given the same liberty. Campbell ended on a somewhat humorous note, saying that she does not want disabled assisted suicide advocates to be able to utilize potential legislation in favor of their beliefs. “I want them to carry on disagreeing with me for as long as possible,” she said.