Disability Rights Advocates Come Out in Force Against PAS

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As we have seen in Maryland, advocates for persons with disabilities have been strongly united in their opposition to physician-assisted suicide. And for good reason. The language proposed in many states has no protections against the dangers of coercion for our most vulnerable populations.
As a result, a coalition of disability rights groups in Delaware that include ADAPT Delaware, The Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, and The State Council for Persons with Disabilities have publicly come out in opposition to PAS legislation, saying:
“The risk of coercion is very real. Coercion is a complex phenomenon and is not easily assessed, making it very important how long and how well the doctor knows the patient. No matter how many requests a patient makes nor how many doctors see her, if her leading doctor doesn’t know her over the long term, the doctor is unlikely to be able to accurately assess that there is no coercion.”
In New York, we are seeing similar efforts to pass a bill that fails to address any of these concerns. As a result, disability rights advocates are once again organizing in opposition. Kathryn Carroll, an attorney and policy analyst from the Center for Disability Rights, was invited to testify at a committee hearing on the bill, saying in a press release from Not Dead Yet:
“The mere suggestion that disability acquired as the result of illness is cause enough to end one’s life is a devaluation of disabled peoples’ lives, and it’s offensive,” says Kathryn Carroll. “Our focus should be on expanding access to services and supports that allow people to live with dignity, rather than assisting their suicide.”
These continued advocacy efforts have made a difference. Based on the work by advocates for persons with disabilities and many others in Delaware, the House has once again delayed a vote – reports showing that they do not yet have the numbers in support, and that the bill will likely be tabled for the remainder of the legislative session, effectively killing the bill’s chance for passage. In New York, we are still waiting to see what action the Assembly’s Health Committee takes on the bill.
Advocates for legalizing PAS in Delaware and Maryland will be back next year, so it’s important to keep up our advocacy efforts. Maryland is very likely to see another PAS bill next session and it’s critical we slow the momentum on this issue around the country – particularly in states targeted for passage by leading assisted suicide advocacy groups.

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