On Sunday December 11 a final post was put up on Life: Paralyzed by Christina Symanski. Entitled "Message to My Friends", Symanski gives those that knew her a final good bye. I urge everyone to read it. One passage struck me as particularly sad.
"Please know that my decision to leave this life behind was not made rashly, or without careful consideration and concern for the people I'm leaving behind. I have been fighting an uphill battle to live, every day since my accident. A big part of me died back on June 5, 2005 and my life was never the same. Everything has felt empty, and bittersweet. Every memory tainted with sadness, over everything that I've lost, everything I miss doing, and everything I had planned to do, and hoped to be.
My paralysis robbed me of the most basic human necessities (freedom, privacy, independence, and physical intimacy)."
I wish Symanski had learned to cope with paralysis. I do not necessarily mean cope with the very real physical struggles she faced but rather make a theoretical leap in logic. Comparing life with and without paralysis is inherently negative and misleading. There is life with paralysis and there is life without paralysis. You cannot compare the two--they are fundamentally different social experiences. Paralysis I would maintain robs a person of only one thing--equality. The civil rights of people with a disability are not valued and often violated. In fact, disability rights and civil rights are not considered by many to be comparable. I wish Symanski embraced her inalienable rights, rights that many people take for granted. Her death is a tragedy for her family and friends and an indictment on American society's failure to provide sub basic social supports for people with a disability.
Paralyzed since I was 18 years old, I have spent much of the last 30 years thinking about the reasons why the social life of crippled people is so different from those who ambulate on two feet. After reading about the so called Ashley Treatment I decided it was time to write a book about my life as a crippled man. My book, Bad Cripple: A Protest from an Invisible Man, will be published by Counter Punch. I hope my book will completed soon.
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Monday, December 12, 2011
Life Paralyzed: A Final Post
Posted by william Peace at 10:40 AM
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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I agree. I have sympathy for someone's struggle, and in the end I do not oppose assisted suicide, but I cannot imagine it as an option. There is too much of interest going on even if all I can do is look at a blank wall. But as a child I was obsessed with wondering how I'd live if I lost sense or abilities I had, and somehow that's made a difference... I cannot be crushed by the loss... just hurt or challenged.
Thanks for your post.
Jason, Agree with you. Life is a gift and I would contend all too short. Hard to fathom people choose to die.
While, yes, if this was a better system, one which recognizes the equality of all individuals and supports them, many would lead better, and longer lives.
I am concerned that some groups or individuals may not view Christina as a person, but as a 'person with a disability'. And that PWD cannot be depressed, cannot be suicidal, cannot decide that life isn't worth going on. We have 1 suicide every 6 minutes in the US, and for something that can be treated, that is a national shame. With 100,000 disabled ex-soldiers coming back into society, have the lessons of abandonment been learned from the 70's and 80's? Not by the stats or papers showing the level of untreated mental illness in those still serving, much less those dealing with drastic change, loss and grief.
You say that comparing life with and without paralysis is inherently negative. I think Christina said that too, and shared how she, as an individual felt. And she had been feeling that way for years. And so she made a choice based on the experiences she had, as an individual.
Please don't take away the individual while the experience, the skill set, the support network, the advocacy or the education are still waiting upgrading. Maybe, like the tens of thousands of examples before her (and through history), she did not find a life without equality to be something she wanted preserving.
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