Euthanasia activist finds purpose pursuing death
Ningxia native Li Yan has battled muscular dystrophy for all but one of her 29 years. She talks about her weblog campaign for legislation allowing euthanasia to be introduced on the mainland.
How much has the disease changed your life?
I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of one and I haven't been able to walk since six. Since then, my physical condition has deteriorated further. When I went to school at 10, I had to be taken in and out of the classroom by my mother. So one year later I quit school and since then I have been confined to a wheelchair at home. Now, my legs, waist and arms are numb, and I am even gradually losing the ability to chew food. I can't take care of myself and all daily activities such as dressing, eating, combing my hair or even answering the call of nature are helped by my 60-year-old mother.
Why do you hope euthanasia will be legalised in China?
On one hand, I hope to have a peaceful death. I want to pass away without any pain before the death of my parents. Doctors say there's no possibility for recovery and in time, my condition will get worse. It's a predictable future. My internal organs will weaken and shrink, I will lose the ability to swallow and won't be able to eat anything solid. Meanwhile, my parents are growing old. I am overwhelmed, terrified and saddened by my foreseeable future. On the other hand, I believe there are many people who are experiencing similar or worse suffering and they all want a good ending to their lives, so I want to speak out on their behalf.
When did you come across the idea?
The first I heard about mercy killing, or euthanasia, was from a CCTV news report when I was 16. After that, I began to pay attention to the topic, but it was not until 2005 that I started considering ending my own life when my mother broke her leg. During that period, my life was a mess. I couldn't help but imagine what my life would be like after my parents passed away, which deeply terrified me.
How did your weblog campaign come about?
Last October, I wrote an entry on the internet calling for euthanasia to be legalised. I explained the benefits that euthanasia can bring to suffering people, their families, society and the country. Then last month, I wrote to a CCTV host's blog about this campaign and she added a link to my weblog address. The response has been beyond my expectations - 1,299 comments have been left on the euthanasia entry and it was read by more than 30,000 people. Some have encouraged me to fight the disease, but more have just showed their understanding and sympathy. I appreciate this kind of connection very much.
What's your parents' response?
They were not shocked. They just said the decision was up to me. I guess they also know what my future holds and are helpless to change my condition.
Have you ever attempted suicide?
Yes. Once after a serious fight with my mother, who had led me to believe that I could recover soon - I stopped eating for 36 hours. However, my mother begged me to eat and kept crying, which made me change my mind. More importantly, there's another reason: starvation is too painful. I couldn't bear the pain any more.
What's every day life like for you?
My hobby is drawing and also a task I give myself to keep me busy, although it can take five hours to draw a flower. I surf the internet, write blogs and make friends on the internet. My computer makes my life meaningful. Without it, I could only sit at home, watch TV and listen to the radio without any friends.
Have you ever been urged to respect life more?
Some friends asked me to be positive and be responsible for my parents. But I can only say we are in different situations and have differing views. Local government officials also visited me once and encouraged me to live without any burden, saying the country will take good care of me after my parents die. I don't believe that at all. Just look at the disabled beggars in the streets leading miserable lives.