01/28/2013 05:10 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Ashley Smith: The Need to Bear Witness

I have tried to avoid looking at pictures of the treatment of Ashley Smith from still photos to videos. But, it is wrong to look away for my own sake. It is wrong for any of us to look away for our own sake.

I read about Noah Pozner, the beautiful 6 year old who was one of 20 beautiful babies gunned down with an assault weapon that fired hundreds of bullets in seconds.

We did not see the pictures of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary after they were mutilated. The mother of Noah insisted on seeing her son. Prior to his burial, she insisted on an open casket. His lower jaw was blown away; his left hand gone. She brought the Governor of Connecticut to see him, as well. The Governor wept. As should all of us. We should force ourselves to witness the aftereffects of carnage. Perhaps then we will fight harder for change.

The same is true of Ashley. We need to see the way she was treated. We need to bear witness to the way she was allowed to die. We need to see it so that we never let our government treat the mentally ill as "lesser than." So that we demand that the mentally ill be treated with the same respect as we treat those with physical illnesses.

We need to see the videos and the photos and hear the testimony of all those involved so that we ask ourselves the question, "What would I have done if I had been told to stand by and watch?" The answer to that question goes to the very core of our being, our personal and societal ethical and moral priorities. Can we rise above orders that go against the right to human dignity and compassion?