Allow me to set the background for you.
Me Before You is the story of a man who after becoming a quadriplegic, finds the prospect of living with disabilities so terrible, he decides to opt for euthanasia. I would also like to add the character is wealthy because money always matters.
A little bit about me. I am a person living with cerebral palsy and, though I have the use of essentially half my body (my left side being my weaker side), through a series of life events, including simply time, my ability has declined as I’ve aged. I think this is true of all bodies; mine just seems to be wearing down a little faster.
In addition to being a disabled person, I am also a dad, a husband, a brother, uncle, friend, pastor, etc. In short, I am many things, relationally, just as we are all many things no matter the bodies in which we live.
As a final note of reference, just for the sake of comparison to the character, though my body was never nondisabled, I used to walk, play sports, ice skate adaptively, and do many other things I can no longer physically do. I now use an electric wheelchair as my primary means of mobility.
As a dad, I have lived my life similarly. I could do slightly different things with my daughter when she was born than I can do now, nine years later. For example I could get bottles, which I could still do. I could hold her when seated which I could still do, and so on. I could not, however, walk and carry her (or at least I did not feel comfortable doing so.) I never quite mastered one-handed diaper changes, and I couldn’t do some other things nondisabled parents might take for granted like lift her over my head for airplane rides or get on my knees to bathe her (though this can also be done adaptively.)
So the question is, “Did I feel left out?” The answer, “Sometimes.” But, again, why should I be different than anyone else?
No matter the body in which one lives, I don’t believe that any of us can avail ourselves to every single life experience. Why? Our bodies are different. Further, we are also each restricted, to one extent or another, by time, money, location, and so on… I have never been to Paris but the movie character in question has been there. So, I believe, no matter our individual experiences, as different as they may be, life is still worth living.
Regardless of my physical body, my daughter is a better person for having me in her life just as I am better for having her in my life. The same is the true of my wife, my other family members, my friends, etc. You see, I believe true life is not value defined by the body. Instead, life is defined and best valued by relationships.
If I, as the character did, had another person profess love for me but still said, “But, I can’t do…” and kill myself, I hurt not just me but the people who care for me. As a dad, I think mostly of my daughter. I would have missed out on so many things if I defined myself by my limitations and so would’ve she.
We would have missed out on our adaptive peek-a-boo games where she would crouch down under her crib rail and I would say, “Where did Peanut go?” to which she would pop up every time gleefully and I would exclaim, “There she is!”
We would have missed out on her laying in the crook of my arm as I gently rocked her back to sleep with a bottle at night.
We would missed out on me saying, “I am daddy, that’s me. You’re Peanut, that’s you” until finally one day hearing her say her first words in the back room of my friend’s store, “Daddy”.
In short, we would have missed out on life. And, that’s my point.
The danger of movies like, Me Before You, is that they cast disabled lives as not worth living. Not only is this not true but, I would argue, all lives have value and are worthy of love. It’s for these reasons I live my life in such a way that others hear, “You are valued and you are loved.” Every single person, no matter the body in which they live, deserve this.
So let me ask, having read some of my life story, if I said, “My life is too difficult. I think I am going to end it.” Would you say, “What a romantic gesture especially since you’ll leave a substantial amount of money (in my case due to life insurance) behind for those whom you love” or would you tell me instead, “I know your life is difficult right now but I care about you as do so many others. You make my life better and given the benefit of time, distance, and perspective, I believe you will see the value of your life too because you’ll live out the value of shared relational experiences.”
That’s my problem with notions or laws surrounding assisted suicide in general. They take away the opportunity for relationship.
As for my relationship with you, whether you know me well or are just reading my words on the page, I hope our bond is now strong enough that you’ll live in solidarity with me, and those all around you, who recognize the value of you in their lives.
As for my daughter, she tells people, “He’s just my dad” and for that relationship I am eternally grateful.