Disability-Rights Champions Against Assisted Suicide

by Wesley J. Smith

People who may only casually follow the assisted-suicide debate may think — because this is how the media report their stories — that the only real objectors are the Catholic Church and pro-lifers.

To the contrary. Some of the most effective campaigners against assisted suicide are disability rights activists. 

This cuts against the narrative that pro-suicide campaigners and their media camp followers seek to paint. You see, disability rights campaigners are members in good standing of the liberal political coalition. They are also mostly secular in outlook, certainly not-pro life on abortion, and friendly toward gay-rights issues.

They oppose legalization as a matter of human equality. From a column by Diane Coleman, founder of the disability-rights activist organization Not Dead Yet:

Simply put, assisted suicide sets up a double standard, with suicide prevention for some and suicide assistance for others, depending on their health or disability. If such distinctions were based on race or ethnicity, we’d call it bigotry. The dangers of mistake, coercion and abuse it poses to old, ill and disabled people are rooted in a profound and still largely unacknowledged devaluation of our lives.

The fact of the matter is that assisted-suicide opponents look just like America. We are conservative and liberal. Secular and religious. Of every race and color and socio-economic group. (For example, the Latino civil-rights organization LULAC has opposed legalization efforts.)

Coleman shows that the “guidelines” to protect against abuse are mere holograms:

Disability advocacy groups also worry about the increasing prevalence of abuse of disabled elders, with federal authorities estimating that one in 10 elders is abused, mainly by family and caregivers. Against this backdrop, so-called safeguards in assisted suicide bills are hollow.

An heir or abusive caregiver can suggest assisted suicide to an ill person, sign as witness to the request, and pick up the drugs. No independent witness is required at the death and in half of Oregon’s cases no such witness was present. So how would anyone know if the lethal dose was self-administered, or even if the person consented at the time? Oregon’s law looks the other way, with no evidence of what happened at the end.

Proponents of legalizing assisted suicide/euthanasia tend to be the rich and life — satisfied. Indeed, I think it is fair to say, to use a political term I am not fond of, it is an issue of the privileged, who want what they want for themselves and don’t much care who else gets hurt.

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