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While two disabled people have shared personal opinions in favor of legalizing assisted suicide (“People living with disabilities support death with dignity” July 25), readers need to know that all of the major national disability organizations that have taken a position on the issue oppose legalizing assisted suicide.

This includes the National Council on Disability, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and several others (see notdeadyet.org/disability-groups-opposed-to-assisted-suicide-laws). These organizations view public policy with a deep historical knowledge of how old, ill and disabled people are devalued by society and, too often, even by our own families. They also have practical experience with our health care and service systems.

The so-called “safeguards” in assisted suicide laws are hollow. For instance, one of the two required witnesses to the form requesting assisted suicide can be an heir who might stand to gain by the person’s death. And worse, neither witness to the person’s signature is required to actually know the person. There is no way to discover, much less prevent, any form of coercion or caregiver abuse in getting people to sign assisted suicide requests. And since no independent witness is required at the time of death, self-administration of the lethal dose is not assured, even though it is required by law. In Oregon, the law includes no investigation or enforcement provisions. Safeguards? I don’t think so.

A major reason people request assisted suicide is the feeling they are a burden to others. I see that as a subtle form of coercion, often resulting from the lack of necessary home care services, or proper pain management and palliative care.

Why are people advocating our “death with dignity” before working first to assure that we have life with dignity?

Marsha Katz, Missoula

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