Disability Activists Urge Georgia Legislators to "Get it Right" on Assisted Suicide

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Today, Georgia disability activists, including members of Not Dead Yet, reacted to the Supreme Court ruling that overturned a 1994 law on assisted suicide on First Amendment grounds, calling on the Georgia legislature to tackle the issue as soon as possible and "get it right" this time.

We call on the Georgia legislature to tackle this issue again as soon as possible and get it right this time," said Eleanor Smith of Georgia Not Dead Yet.

Today, Georgia disability activists, including members of Not Dead Yet, reacted to the Georgia Supreme Court ruling that overturned a 1994 law on assisted suicide on First Amendment grounds. The overturned statute only criminalized the advertising of suicide assistance and, in effect, left unadvertised suicide assistance free from legal prosecution. The Court found that the main effect of the law was to criminalize certain speech, since the advertising was made illegal, with or without an actual commission of assisted suicide.

"When we heard the state attorney say, during oral arguments, that the law was never meant to apply to friends and families 'assisting' suicides but only to publicity hounds, we were pretty sure that the Court was going to throw this law out, one way or another," said Linda Pogue, a local disability rights advocate.

"You can't really blame the court, given the statute they were handed," disability activist Rebecca Tuttle added. "Most of us were under the mistaken impression that Georgia had in fact made suicide assistance illegal, helping to ensure that old, ill and disabled people get equal suicide prevention and equal protection of the law."

"We call on the Georgia legislature to tackle this issue again as soon as possible and get it right this time," Eleanor Smith, a member of Not Dead Yet of Georgia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify feelings of hopelessness, social isolation, and financial loss as known risk factors for suicide.

"Due to the constant social and physical barriers society puts in our way, old, ill and disabled people can be even more prone to falling into suicidal despair at times," said Diane Coleman of national Not Dead Yet. "When you look at these factors in suicidal thoughts of old, ill and disabled people, it's clear that our suicides are every bit as tragic and preventable as the rest of the population, and Georgia law should provide equal protection in the form of equal suicide prevention, not suicide assistance."

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