London’s Daily Mail is a tabloid’s tabloid but its
reporters are expert at tracking down and interviewing people with stories to
tell, even if they don’t have publicists. Taking its cue from the euthanasia
debate over whether people in pain, terminal illness, or severe disability
should have the option of assisted suicide, the newspaper interviewed Elisabeth
Ms Shepherd cares for her 36-year-old son James, her fifth
child. At the age of 8 James was struck by a car and hovered between life and death
for months. Now he is a quadriplegic, can barely speak and is incontinent. But
she cheerfully soldiers on, alone, day after day, caring for him.
She contacted the Daily Mail after another mother, Kay
Gilderdale, was acquitted of the attempted murder of her severely disabled
daughter. “Your admiration for the mother of Lynn Gilderdale
frightens me,” she told the newspaper. “My fear,” she says, “is that if people
begin to think of assisted suicide as an option then the balance will change.
As a society, we will shift towards a different mindset. A mindset in which
people like James begin to appear expendable.”
Ms Shepherd says
that her convictions are not religious, but based on her belief in an
inalienable human dignity.
“I do believe in a God, but my instinct
that life is precious is not just grounded in that. It's partly from watching
doctors fight so hard to preserve the least glimmer of life. It's also because
I feel we're sold an ideal and people feel that if they don't have it they're
not enough. But if we become a tickbox society, where we say no because someone
can't have sex or cannot feed themself, where will that leave us?
“What is a human being? Is my son
any less of a human being? Am I, because having done a law degree I didn't
pursue my legal career and became a carer? Does that make me, or James, any
less of a contributor to society? We all want something. But my aspirations and
James's are different. Others might long to be an air hostess; we just want to
see him flex a finger.” ~ Daily
Mail, Feb 18