There are people with disabilities on both sides of this issue. Pictured is Dustin Hankinson, recipient of C&C's 2011 Hugh Gallagher award.

There are people with disabilities on both sides of this issue. Pictured is Dustin Hankinson, recipient of Compassion & Choices’ 2011 Hugh Gallagher award.

For the first time ever, New Mobility has accepted an ad that takes a side in a “culture war” issue that directly deals with disability. It’s not that we’ve turned down controversial ads in the past — to my knowledge it’s just never come up before.

Perhaps you’ve seen the ad I’m referring to running along the right side of your screen — it’s by Compassion & Choices and invites readers to sign a petition in support of expanded rights to assisted suicide. If you don’t see it, try refreshing your browser.

Assisted suicide comes up often among our staff and always leads to great discussions. A few of us, myself included, fall more in line with the Not Dead Yet camp — NDY being the lead disability rights group opposing assisted suicide. We complain that discrimination against people with disabilities is so rampant, and yet what civil right does society rally behind? Our right to die. I have MS. I have a hard time even getting life insurance because the industry expects me to keel over before I hit 60. Campaigns that capitalize on how awful it must be to have conditions like MS — and yes, some days it is bloody awful — do not help.

And just last week our editor Tim Gilmer and I had a long, passionate discussion about all the ways our health insurance and benefits systems grind down and crush people with disabilities such as MS and SCI. We are all one medical emergency away from being forced into poverty, from losing everything, from having everything that makes life sweet being stripped away.

But on the other hand …

On the other hand, those who say this is a choice issue — as others on staff contend — well, they’re right, too. We must preserve the right to turn down treatments, to refuse medications, to reject surgeries … if we cannot have control over what is done by others to our own bodies, what can we control? That is the foundation of the independent living philosophy, is it not? That shining philosophy asserting that we are the experts on our own bodies, our own lives, and that we have a right to make our own decisions is the wellspring from which our disability movements emanate. And if we decide, after much thought and consideration, that we cannot continue — should we not have the right and means to end it?

And so the discussion rages back and forth.

These are important issues, and are worth every hot word, every passionate argument. What’s at stake is either our right to determine our own end of life decisions or our very right to live, depending on your perspective.

What is your opinion? Where do you fall on this issue? Let us know.