Me Before You and Assisted Suicide

The trailer for the movie “Me Before You” ironically encourages its audience to “live boldly,” while promoting a film that equates disabilities with a lower quality of life. In the novel of the same title, the protagonist, Louisa Clarke, attempts to prove to Will, the quadriplegic she works for, that he can live a full life despite his disability. Ultimately she fails.

The novel and movie, while controversial, discuss the ethics of assisted suicide, which is unfortunately a realistic option for many people with disabilities. This practice is barbaric; if a patient is not terminally ill, they can still lead a full life with a disability. Not even eight months ago, however, I did not believe this. Like Will, I struggled with feelings that I was burdensome, that I could never have a successful career (although I was only in my first semester of college), that my friends only lingered out of pity, and that I was worthless.

On December 2nd, 2015, I attempted suicide. Luckily, I was rushed to the hospital, and transferred to a mental hospital. Many people, however, do not survive. Not only is suicide prevalent, but now assisted suicide is being approved for people with disabilities. If I had known this back in November, I might have applied for assisted suicide, but instead (much to my dismay at that time), I spent all of December and most of January in treatment where I learned coping strategies to fight my self-deprecating thoughts and I met many people who taught me that my disability does not make me a burden.

Instead of putting their son in treatment, Will’s parents ask him to wait six months, and hire Louisa to prove to him that life is worth living. It would be more practical to bring him to a mental health professional because while Louisa is compassionate and optimistic, she is not trained to combat suicidal thoughts. Even though Will is disabled, his parents should realize that sometimes his perspective needs to be changed instead of hoping for his body to miraculously be healed. They pity him and believe him when he tells them that he was not meant to be in a wheelchair. Rather than combating his suicidal thoughts with hope and the reality that disabled people live successful lives, they take Will to Switzerland to kill himself.

While Will feels that his life is over after his accident; it did not have to be. People with quadriplegia can have jobs, relationships, families, friends, and enjoy life. Books and movies like Me Before You, however, argue otherwise. Whether or not Will was suffering from a mental illness, as many people theorize (yet no textual evidence supports), death was not the answer. Hope always exists, and physical ability does not necessarily determine the quality of one’s life.

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