“Too Late to Die Young”

Apr 12, 2011
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Harriet McBryde Johnson was an amazingly open-minded, wise, humorous, and fair person who believed that disabilities do not keep a person from living a good life. She was a lawyer, a writer, and a disability activist who believed that there is no singular way in which a person can live a valued life.  During her working life Harriet came up against people who were curious, some who were condescending, and even some who were dedicated to the opposite view: that people with disabilities did not deserve to live. She faced such assaults face-forward and directly.

In fact, Harriet wrote an amazing book (called “Too Late To Die Young”). In the book Harriet tells stories about her life and times, and shares her perspective on the discussions she had with Peter Singer, (remember him?). He is the well regarded bio-ethicist who proposed that euthanasia for infants with disabilities is morally acceptable.

Singer’s argument was based on his belief that people who are prevented by their disabilities from doing some (specific) things that Singer values doing should not have the right to live. Johnson, on the other hand, believed that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Neither Johnson nor Singer seem to base their discussion in religious terms, or even try to define what might comprise “human value”. Neither author can really answer the question “Why is every life worth preserving?” In fact, Singer would say that it is not. While Harriet argues gracefully that every life is worth preserving, she leaves us to define the reason why it is worth preserving, ourselves.

”To Late To Die Young”: is a fascinating, honest, and (sometimes shocking) book is available in libraries, and bookstores.  Or you can purchase this book “ Too Late To Die Young” online at  http://www.amazon.com/Too-Late-Die-Young

ISBN-13: 978-0312425715

”Accidents of Nature”: Harriet McBryde Johnson also wrote a short novel for high school students about a teenaged girl with cerebral palsy who attends Camp Courage- a camp for children with disabilities- which the kids call “Camp Crip”. The book is called, “Accidents of Nature: and it is also available in libraries, book stores and online at Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Accidents-Nature-Harriet-McBryde-Johnson/

ISBN-13: 978-0805076349

Author: Tanya



  • BobLujano

    I agree with Johnson that every life is worth preserving.The suffering, pain, disability, failure, success, heartbreak and joy that life gives to all of us is to be celebrated and discerned. Celebrated to be thankful that you have these life experiences. Discerned to understand what and why you have gained and/or lost.