New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms strongly opposes physician-assisted suicide for many reasons. Those reasons include the danger of inaccurate prognoses, the absence of mental health safeguards, and—most importantly—the sanctity of human life. Another very important reason to oppose physician-assisted suicide is its potential negative impact upon people with disabilities.
Recently, the National Council on Disability issued a report entitled “Assisted Suicide Laws and their Danger to People with Disabilities.” The report shows that terminally-ill patients often request physician-assisted suicide because of “unmet service and support needs.” According to NCD Chairman Neil Romano, “‘Assisted suicide laws are premised on the notion of additional choice for people at the end of their lives.’” In practice, however, “‘they often remove choices when the low-cost option is ending one’s life versus providing treatments to lengthen it or services and supports to improve it.’”
Meghan Parker, director of advocacy for the New York Association on Independent Living, penned a recent op-ed on this issue in the New York Daily News. Parker expressed concern that “the fate of thousands of people who struggle with serious health challenges will hinge on medical professionals’ subjective perceptions and the guidance they give. My experience tells me that as a result, we will see patients with the same diagnosis or functional levels who are more or less likely to die based on factors that shouldn’t matter.” Parker adds that “assisted suicide is based on the assumption that life is so burdensome for some individuals that it is reasonable for them to want to die early. To me, this sounds dangerously close to the ‘better dead than disabled” attitude that people with disabilities have long struggled against.’”
At NYCF, we stand in solidarity with disability rights advocates in opposition to physician-assisted suicide. Instead of helping the terminally ill and the disabled to die, a compassionate society should help them to live.