As NDY previously reported, Lindsay Baran of the National Council on Independent Living, Anne Sommers of NDY and several other disability advocates testified on July 10th against an assisted suicide bill pending before the District of Columbia Council Health and Human Services Committee. The NDY blog on the DC hearing included a video of Anne Sommers’ testimony. John Kelly also sent testimony and Diane Coleman a letter to the DC Committee, as reported here.
The bill remains pending, so Lindsay and Anne decided to collaborate on an op-ed, which was posted on October 19, 2015 in the Washington Examiner. The full piece discusses a range of key issues, but here’s an excerpt on the disability aspects of assisted suicide data from Doctor-prescribed suicide is never the answer:
Although this whole ugly business seems far more palatable when such noble aims as pain mitigation are headlined, 17 years of available data do not bear out this claim. Oregon annual report data demonstrate that it’s social factors that propel assisted suicide requests. According to one study, “loss of autonomy” (92 percent), “less able to engage in activities” (89 percent), “loss of dignity” (80 percent), “loss of control of bodily functions” (50 percent), and “feelings of being a burden” (40 percent) were the main reasons patients said they wanted to commit suicide. Pain did not even break the top five.
It is dangerous business for public policy to tether dignity to independence. Functional loss and disability nearly always accompany a terminal diagnosis. Linking dignity to independence brands scores of people, including those who age into or acquire disabilities and who depend on others for personal care, as living undignified lives.
Legalizing assisted suicide sends 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 someone the lethal means. Assisted suicide laws reinforce the very societal prejudice that disability rights laws were meant to dismantle and shifts the focus from respecting and accommodating people with disabilities and illnesses to assisting them to die.
To read more, go to Doctor-prescribed suicide is never the answer.