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By Jane Susan Campbell   
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Believe me, it is a terrifying experience to lie in a hospital bed and hear your doctors—the very people you should trust most—calmly decide that your life isn't worth living.

And the anguish of the moment becomes even worse when, in your distress and anxiety, you feel under pressure to agree.

I know. It happened to me in 2002 when I was struck down by a sudden chest infection and rushed to an unfamiliar hospital where nobody knew me or anything about me.

But then, the consultants thought they knew enough. They could see that I was seriously disabled. I was born with spinal muscular atrophy and spend my waking hours in a wheelchair. I can't breathe or eat or use the bathroom without assistance.

In their eyes, I was an obviously hopeless case. Though proper treatment would give me a fighting chance of survival, they couldn't see past my disability.

You wouldn't want to be resuscitated,” they said, causing me to even doubt myself. Why were they saying this? What did they know that I didn't? It could have been a death sentence, one that I was too ill to resist.

In the event, it was my husband who came to the rescue. He dug out a photograph of me receiving an honorary university degree. It was enough to persuade the medical powers-that-be that my life had some purpose and meaning after all.

—Baroness Campbell is a member of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

 
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