Disability Groups Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide Laws For Terminally Ill People

Brittany Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in California in January 2014.

Maynard moved to Oregon in order to obtain life-ending medicine via a doctor. She died on November 1, 2014.

Before her death, Maynard advocated for physician-assisted suicide laws so that terminally ill people wouldn't have to travel out of state if they chose to end their lives on their terms.

Since her death, these types of laws have since been introduced in over 20 states.

However, some disability-rights groups oppose these types of laws for the terminally ill.

Diane Coleman, founder and CEO of Not Dead Yet, told McClatchy DC: “The risk of mistake and coercion and abuse are really too great."

However, Peg Sandeen, head of the Death with Dignity National Center, claimed that the slippery slope scenario voiced by opponents “hasn’t happened. There have not been any reports of coercion, of vulnerable people being pressed into using the laws.”

"We want people to be getting good quality end-of-life care at all times, " Sandeen added.

Not Dead Yet has teamed with Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund and Second Thoughts to oppose doctor-assisted suicide laws.

These types of laws usually only allow physician-assisted suicide if the person is going to die within six months of their terminally ill diagnosis.

The terminally ill person usually has to make written and verbal requests for life-ending drugs from a doctor. Additionally, the person has to make a third request about two weeks later.

But the groups who oppose these laws claim the danger stems from non-disabled people who are afraid of becoming disabled and losing their quality of life.

Non-disabled, non-terminally ill people are not covered under these types of laws.

Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund, has to use a wheelchair because of an injury.

“At the beginning, I felt that the injury was unbearable. A year later, it hit me: There was no change in my quality of life,” Golden stated.

According to the Death with Dignity National Center, only three states (Washington, Vermont, Oregon), have physician-assisted suicide laws, while Montana and New Mexico have favorable court decisions.

Sources: McClatchy DC, Death with Dignity National Center
Image Credit: KVDP, Slashme


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