|For Immediate Release:|
|Disability rights groups applaud today’s New York Court of Appeals unanimous ruling announcing that “we reject plaintiffs’ argument that an individual has a fundamental constitutional right to aid-in-dying . . . . We also reject plaintiffs’ assertion that the State’s prohibition on assisted suicide is not rationally related to legitimate state interests.”Not Dead Yet led the filing of a Disability Rights friend-of-the-court brief in the state’s highest court in support of the New York State Attorney General. Joining in the Not Dead Yet brief were ten other national and New York state disability rights organizations: ADAPT, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Center for Disability Rights, the Disability Rights Center, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), the National Council on Independent Living, the New York Association on Independent Living, Regional Center for Independent Living and United Spinal Association, collectively referred to as the “Disability Rights Amici.”
“We are tremendously heartened by today’s decision,” said Adam Prizio, attorney for the Disability Rights Amici. “This was the right decision for the Court of Appeals and for the disability community, because the Petitioners were asking the Court to write into law an exception which the Legislature did not create and did not intend. The Court rightly declined to do this. I expect proponents of assisted suicide to redouble their efforts with the Legislature as a result, and to try to push assisted suicide through in a hurry next year. We will be there to push back when they do, because this issue is life and death for the disability community.”
Among other issues, the brief expressed concerns about advocacy for assisted suicide in the context of extreme pressures to cut health care costs. “Elders and people with disabilities too often face economic or other pressures to get out of the way,” said Diane Coleman, president/CEO of Not Dead Yet. “If assisted suicide becomes an accepted practice, coverage may be denied for more expensive healthcare, as we’ve already seen in Oregon and California. In this climate, what is being promoted as a ‘right to die’ could very quickly become an expectation, even a duty to die.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Fahey quoted from the Disability Rights brief:
The Disability Rights amici argue that while the plaintiffs “use the term ‘dignified death’ to justify assisted suicide. . . . the ‘indignities’ nondisabled (and some newly disabled) people invariably describe are the need for assistance in daily activities like bathing, dressing, and other realities of having a disability. Legalizing assisted suicide enshrines in law the prejudice that death is preferable to receiving the assistance that many disabled people rely on” (Amicus Brief of Disability Rights Amici: Not Dead Yet et al., at 4). . . . Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would convey a societal value judgment that such “indignities” as physical vulnerability and dependence mean that life no longer has any intrinsic value.
A disability does not deprive life of integrity or value. There is no lack of nobility or true dignity in being dependent on others.