By Cliff Perez
New York is considering legalizing assisted suicide, but such a law would threaten the most vulnerable in society: the elderly, the terminally ill and people with disabilities.
As someone who lives with a disability and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, I strongly encourage the New York Legislature to reject assisted suicide, and instead work to increase access to better care and resources, such as long-term-services and supports.
People with disabilities have to overcome many challenges to be included in our society, which unfortunately determines someone’s worth based on their abilities. The Covid-19 health crisis has exposed this even more. People with disabilities are grappling with crisis standards of care that are inherently discriminatory.
If assisted suicide were available in New York, health care rationing could quickly turn into an early death sentence for someone with a disability who doctors may erroneously deem as having a low quality of life.
Whether it’s discriminatory crisis standards of care or assisted suicide, the message is the same: if you are living with a disability, your life is not valued.
In a recent report, the National Council on Disability, a national, nonpartisan research entity, detailed the dangers of assisted suicide laws to people with disabilities. The study found that “safeguards” in these laws are “ineffective, and often fail to protect patients.”
The so-called “safeguards” in New York’s assisted suicide bill are minimal at best. There is nothing in place that will protect the most vulnerable in society, the elderly, the terminally ill and people with disabilities, from abuse and coercion.
In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal the longest in the country, the top five reasons that people give for choosing assisted suicide are all disability related. These reasons include: loss of autonomy, being a burden to family/friends or loss of dignity.
Pain, contrary to popular belief, does not make it into the top five reasons. These reasons are all existential or disability related and ought to be addressed with quality, multidisciplinary care, not death.
Due to the pandemic, now more than ever the disability community is feeling threatened by health care rationing and discriminatory crisis standards of care. Legalizing assisted suicide would only compound the threat the disability community is facing.
There is never a time to legalize or institutionalize assisted suicide, but especially now during a worldwide pandemic, New York should be focused on improving care, not making death more accessible.
Cliff Perez is a systems advocate at the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley in Troy.
Source: “Another Voice: Assisted suicide, care rationing threaten the disabled,” BuffaloNews.com