Attorney Stephanie Woodward is Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, New York. She writes about how her experiences as a disabled woman inform her opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide in a new guest editorial entitled Why disabled people like me fear medically assisted suicide. Here’s an excerpt:
We’re often regarded as incapable of making our own decisions and unworthy of respect. However, when one disabled person announces they want to die, they’re lauded in the press and on social media. Sara Myers, for example, has Lou Gehrig’s disease and has received a slew of media attention for wanting assisted suicide because she began to experience disability. Media focused on Myers’s use of a wheelchair and her need for assistance in showering and toileting to demonstrate why assisted suicide should be available to her. For full disclosure, I use a wheelchair and have needed assistance with both showering and toileting in my life, and I expect I’ll need more assistance as I age. I take it very personally when media and society lists these as valid reasons to want to die.
With all of these negative stereotypes and stigmas against disabled people, combined with the praise a disabled person receives when they announce that they want to die, nothing scares me more than the legalization of assisted suicide.
For her complete commentary, go here.
Stephanie has some great history as a Not Dead Yet advocate. She was a major player in the NDY protest against the World Federation of Right To Die Societies in September 2014 in Chicago.
And she helped lead the protest against the first assisted suicide bill introduced in Albany this year, which received excellent coverage in The Village Voice, including choice quotes such as “People with disabilities are told every day they’d be better off dead,” says Stephanie Woodward, a 26-year-old disability rights lawyer who was at the protest in her wheelchair. “Instead of giving suicide prevention or help, [these bills] open the doors for us to off ourselves.” And her other quotes are really worth a read here.
We’re really lucky to have her strong voice now that NY is in the crosshairs.