Disability rights advocates are having a busy week opposing legalization of assisted suicide

Share Article

Not Dead Yet leaders as well as advocates from several national and local disability rights groups are having a busy week opposing assisted suicide laws being considered by legislatures in California and the District of Columbia as well as a Tennessee court this week. Not Dead Yet board members will testify in opposition to an assisted suicide bill proposed in the District of Columbia, while Tennessee Not Dead Yet advocates will attend an assisted suicide court hearing.

Anne Sommers

Legalizing assisted suicide sends the wrong message to anyone who depends on caregivers – the message that feeling like a burden is not only an acceptable reason for suicide, but a justification for our health care system to provide you the lethal means.

Not Dead Yet leaders as well as advocates from several national and local disability rights groups are having a busy week opposing assisted suicide laws being considered by legislatures in California and the District of Columbia as well as a Tennessee court this week.

The California Assembly Health Committee was scheduled to hear testimony on that state’s assisted suicide bill, the End of Life Options Act (SB 128), until proponents of the law withdrew it from a scheduled hearing earlier this week.

In a statement issued by the coalition Californians Against Assisted Suicide, Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund was quoted stating, "Those of us advocating on behalf of disability rights organizations understand that choice is a myth in the context of our health care reality. End-of-life treatment options are already limited for millions of people—constrained by poverty, disability discrimination, and other obstacles. Adding this so-called 'choice' into our dysfunctional healthcare system will push people into cheaper lethal options. There is no assurance everyone will be able to choose treatment over suicide; no material assistance for families of limited means who are struggling to care for loved ones; no meaningful protection from abusive family members or caregivers."

Meanwhile, the District of Columbia is holding the first public hearing hearing on its assisted suicide bill, B21-38, on Friday, July 10. Not Dead Yet’s board chairperson, Anne Sommers, will be testifying, as well as board member Samantha Crane. Crane will testify on behalf of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, where she works as director of public policy. Lindsay Baran, policy analyst with the National Council on Independent Living, and Shira Wakschlag, staff attorney and special assistant to the CEO of The Arc of the United States, will also be testifying.

Baran expressed concerns about the interaction of pressures to cut health care costs with assisted suicide legislation. “Over and over we see insurance providers override physician recommendations due to cost,” Baran said. “As someone with a physical disability who has undergone many treatments and surgeries throughout my life, this is something I’ve experienced personally. I’ve had coverage for expensive medications and treatments denied and important procedures delayed.”

Sommers addressed the problem of societal attitudes about dignity implicit in the bill’s title, Death With Dignity, and the reasons that Oregon doctors report as underlying requests for assisted suicide. “Legalizing assisted suicide sends the wrong message to anyone who depends on caregivers – the message that feeling like a burden is not only an acceptable reason for suicide,” said Sommers, “but a justification for our health care system to provide you the lethal means.”

Also on Friday, the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, Tennessee will hold a hearing on the government defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings in a case brought by John Jay Hooker to legalize assisted suicide (Case No. 15-0615-II). Disability advocates from Tennessee Not Dead Yet as well as the Tennessee Disability Coalition plan to attend the proceeding. Tennessee Not Dead Yet leader Josue Rodriguez testified passionately at the June 9th Health and Welfare Committee hearing on Tennessee’s assisted suicide bill, describing the suicidal despair that disability discrimination drove him to at an earlier point in his life.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Diane Coleman
Not Dead Yet
+1 708-420-0539
Email >

Samantha Crane
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
301-758-4426
Email >
Visit website