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Disability Groups Advocate against Physician Assisted Suicide Legislation

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press release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Kristen Cullen, 781-248-7154

Disability Groups Advocate against Physician Assisted Suicide Legislation

February 19, 2016 – Annapolis, MD – Activists and stakeholders representing individuals with disabilities have joined with the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide coalition in opposition of the “Aid in Dying” legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in Maryland. House Bill 404 and Senate Bill 418 would allow patients with a terminal illness who are given a prognosis of six months or less to live to get a lethal dose at their local pharmacies to end their lives.

“This legislation would lead to many unintended consequences for individuals with disabilities who are often targets of coercion and abuse. Although few people are expected to use the law, it would endanger many more lives for people with disabilities who already feel like a burden to family and loved ones,” said Samantha Crane, Director of Public Policy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “If assisted suicide is legalized, people will lose their lives through mistakes and abuse; there are no safeguards in this legislation that will prevent this outcome.”

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have historically faced discrimination and lack of access to medical care based on their perceived value. Assisted suicide raises significant concerns for people with disabilities as well as those who will acquire a disability as a result of a terminal diagnosis who are perceived as less valuable,” said Cristine Marchand, Executive Director of The Arc Maryland.

The legislation filed in Maryland does not include safeguards to ensure that a patient is not coerced at the time of death into ingesting the drug, or to prevent another person from administering the drug. In addition, it does not require doctors to give patients a screening for depression before providing the lethal dose, opening the door for those who are suffering from depression – or even those who are overwhelmed for a short period of time due to a terminal diagnosis – to choose a lethal course of action.  

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