Assisted Suicide Kills People with Disabilities
Oppose S.3151 & A2383
Dangerous, Poorly Conceived Legislation
Assisted suicide targets and devalues disabled lives without ever mentioning us explicitly. It does so with overly broad definitions and poor, unenforceable safeguards. Under the assisted suicide bills that have been introduced in New York, assisted suicide would be offered to people with a terminal prognosis; that is to say, people who have less than six months to live, according to a doctor, irrespective of whether treatment is provided or would alter that diagnosis. The bill defines any person who would die within six months without treatment as terminally ill. This expansive definition includes a great many people with disabilities who can happily live for decades with proper treatment. This is a definition and a policy which leaves disabled people wide open to abuse.
Assisted Suicide is a License to Coerce Disabled People
and Seniors to Our Death
Disabled people, and seniors, experience abuse at the hands of family members and “caregivers” every day at rates significantly higher than the general population. One in ten seniors will experience elder abuse. One in two disabled women will be sexually abused. Why is this relevant to assisted suicide? Because assisted suicide enables heirs, family members, and others to drive a person with a disability to seek to end their own life, with no questions asked. Heirs and others can take a parent with dementia from doctor to doctor until they find one willing to prescribe the death cocktail. There are no witnesses required at death, which means that a family member can administer the lethal dose to a person who has received and filled the lethal prescription but has not consented to take it. They will face no questions, no investigation, and no consequences. Every year there are disabled people are murdered by family members, heirs and caregivers. These laws give these same family members, heirs, and caregivers the legal means to bring people to the same dire end.
Assisted Suicide is a Deadly Way for Insurance Companies to cut Costs
We live in a time when health care is a commodity, when insurance companies and managed care organizations base decisions as much on cost as on effectiveness of treatment. It is inevitable that assisted suicide will be used to cut costs if it is legalized. In Oregon there have been several recorded cases in which insurers denied people access to life extending treatment while offering a lethal prescription instead. Only weeks after California passed its assisted suicide law, Stephanie Packer, a mother of four and a cancer patient, was denied her previously approved chemotherapy treatment, and offered low cost suicide pills instead.
Physicians Misjudge Quality of Life
Nondisabled people who express a desire to commit suicide to a doctor are almost always referred to suicide prevention or mental health services. By contrast, when a disabled person requests assisted suicide, doctors conclude that our disabilities are sufficient grounds to treat us differently, and that suicide should be an option for us. Doctors often underrate the quality of life of people with disabilities compared with how we rate our own lives. Yet a doctor’s ability to make this determination is considered a key safeguard in this law. Some doctors will provide the death cocktail instead of taking the additional steps that could address a person’s concerns, such as discussing home care services to relieve feelings of burdening family, or palliative care to address pain, or referring a suicide-seeking disabled person to suicide prevention or mental health services. Legal assisted suicide makes suicide prevention irrelevant for people with disabilities.
Ensure that we get to Live with Dignity, Not Die with it!
“Death with dignity” is a false promise in a world which denies that disabled people can live with dignity. Right now, many disabled people are forced to live in poverty and leave our homes and communities if we want to receive the supports we need to live our lives. Our society treats the Disability Community so badly that it is not surprising many nondisabled people would prefer death to what little they know of disabled lives. But that is reason to improve society, not to allow people with disabilities to be killed.
We already live in a world that devalues disabled lives. Disabled people face discrimination, violence and abuse at higher rates in every corner of our society. When disabled people are able to live our lives free of forced institutionalization, and over-reliance on family support; when we don’t have to fight for improved palliative care; when society no longer portrays us as burdens, there will be no call for doctors to kill us except for those pushing hate. Support us in living dignified lives and there will be no need to discuss dignified deaths!
Assisted Suicide is a Serious Threat to the Lives of
New York’s People with Disabilities! Urge your representatives to oppose S.3151 & A.2383!