Assisted Suicide Laws Create Discriminatory Double Standard for Who Gets Suicide Prevention and Who Gets Suicide Assistance: Not Dead Yet Responds to Autonomy, Inc
Disability and health journal 2010 Jan; 3(1): 39-50
Not Dead Yet is a national disability rights organization formed in 1996 to articulate and organize the disability rights opposition to legalization of assisted suicide. In the first half of 2009, Not Dead Yet and four other national disability organizations joined in an amicus brief filed in Baxter v. State of Montana, an assisted suicide case on appeal to the state Supreme Court. Autonomy, Inc., another disability organization, filed an amicus brief in favor of a constitutional right to assisted suicide. The author reviews the lower court opinion and the key arguments in these amicus briefs from the perspective of Not Dead Yet. The Montana District Court concluded that the privacy and dignity provisions of the Montana Constitution establish a constitutional right to physician assisted suicide for terminally ill people, and that potential abuses of that right could be regulated by state statute. The author addresses the question, "What does disability have to do with it?" The author uses a combination of clinical research, legal analysis and the Oregon Reports on assisted suicide to examine the claim that abuses can be prevented by restricting assisted suicide to competent people who are terminally ill and choose it voluntarily. Autonomy, Inc.'s arguments explicitly depend on the medical profession's ability to reliably predict terminal status, and the capacity of society and the law to implement a double standard of suicide prevention and suicide assistance based on terminal status. Not Dead Yet's central argument is that such a double standard based on health status constitutes unlawful discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The author highlights data from the Oregon Reports demonstrating that lethal prescriptions were issued to people who were not terminally ill under the law's definition, and examines various problems of implementation and enforcement under the Oregon and Washington assisted suicide statutes. Particular attention is given to the problems associated with the role of physicians as gatekeepers under the statutes, providing examples of physicians pressuring people to forego life-sustaining treatment and involuntarily withholding life-sustaining treatment.
Assisted Suicide; Autonomy; Clinical Research; Disability; Discrimination; Health; Health Status; Law; Life; Laws; Organizations; Physicians; Privacy; Research; Rights; Suicide; Statutes; Terminally Ill; Suicide / Assisted Suicide; Prolongation of Life and Euthanasia; Health Care for Particular Diseases or Groups;
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