FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 27, 2022
CONTACT: Zach Garafalo, Manager of Government Affairs, Center for Disability Rights, Albany, New York 12203 518-362-7916 or firstname.lastname@example.org
CENTER FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS WARNS LEGISLATORS THAT PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE IS A DEADLY PROPOSITION THAT PUTS DISABLED PEOPLE AT RISK
Albany: Although it is portrayed as a progressive rights bill, Disability Rights advocates urge state legislators to recognize that the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A4321/S6471) is an existential threat to Disabled New Yorkers. If passed and signed into law, the government will have abdicated its responsibility to ensure Disabled New Yorkers have equal protection under the law related to suicide prevention services. “Instead of being referred for suicide prevention services, Disabled people will be given the tools to end their lives,” said Rebecca Payton, CDR’s Senior Director of Independent Living Services.
This legislation endangers Disabled people who are at grave risk of coercion and abuse while creating an opportunity for insurance companies to enhance their bottom line. “Legislators can’t ignore that insurance companies and family members may financially benefit from the untimely deaths of Disabled New Yorkers,” said Bruce Darling, President/CEO of the Center for Disability Rights. “It’s awful, but abuse of elderly and Disabled individuals is a fact of our lives. This bill opens throws open the doors for the worst of that.”
Additionally, advocates warn that medical determinations about how long a person has to live are just guesswork. “My mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer which appeared unresponsive to treatment. She was given palliative treatments intended to alleviate her symptoms, but lived well beyond anyone’s expectations. In fact, she took us out to dinner to celebrate the five-year mark when she ‘beat’ her cancer”, said Darling. “I treasure those unexpected years which could have been lost if policies in our state were different.”
Disability rights advocates are particularly concerned about the impact on marginalized communities, particularly Black, Indigenous People of Color. “BIPOC Disabled people are at greater risk from assisted suicide laws because of racial disparities in health care,” said Ayishetu Salifu Mamudu, Deaf Systems Advocate at the Regional Center for Independent Living. “Although privileged white people present this as a rights issue, the reality is that BIPOC are in the cross hairs of this bad policy. I urge policy makers to recognize that and understand that in establishing this rights for some people, BIPOC individuals – and others – will die before their time. That is unacceptable.”
Although the bill is presented as helping people die peacefully, that argument is disingenuous because solutions already exist. “There is an alternative,” said Zach Garafalo, Manager of Government Affairs at the Center for Disability Rights. “Anyone dying in discomfort that is not otherwise relievable, already may legally receive palliative sedation, wherein the patient is sedated to the point that the discomfort is relieved while the dying process takes place. We already have a legal solution to any uncomfortable deaths that does not endanger others the way an assisted suicide law does.”