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Disability activists rally against assisted suicide at NY court of appeals

by | Jun 1, 2017

Editor’s note. This was posted by the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet. According to New York Law Journal the plaintiffs are “challenging whether two anti-assisted suicide statutes in state Penal Law apply to physicians and, if they do, whether the physicians’ constitutional rights are violated by the statutes.” Their challenge has already been rejected by two lower courts.

New York Court of Appeals

New York Court of Appeals

Disability rights activists from across the state rallied Tuesday as the New York Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the Myers v. Schneiderman assisted suicide case.

Not Dead Yet led the filing of a Disability Rights friend-of-the-court brief in the Court of Appeals in support of the New York State Attorney General, and earlier rulings in the case by the Supreme Court and Appellate Division, both of which dismissed a case seeking to legalize physician assisted suicide.

Joining in the Not Dead Yet brief were ten other national and New York state disability rights organizations: ADAPT, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Center for Disability Rights, the Disability Rights Center, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), the National Council on Independent Living, the New York Association on Independent Living, Regional Center for Independent Living and United Spinal Association, collectively referred to as the “Disability Rights Amici.”

New York attorney Adam Prizio handled the filing on behalf of the disability organizations. “Our basic position is that when some people get suicide prevention while other people get suicide assistance, and the difference is the person’s age, disability or health status, that’s unlawful discrimination,” said Prizio. “It’s a problem that certain people are being told that others not only agree with their suicide, which is bad enough, but will even help them carry it out. It’s a deadly form of discrimination and, as our brief says, it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with DREDF, summarizes concerns about a government authorized, medically administered public policy of assisted suicide as follows:

“If assisted suicide is legalized, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

Disability advocates are often criticized by assisted suicide proponents who claim that assisted suicide is only for the terminally ill, not people with disabilities. Activists will distribute information which refutes that claim based on data from Oregon, where it is legal.

The brief also expresses concerns about the context of health care cost-cutting in which assisted suicide is being advocated. “Elders and people with disabilities too often face economic or other pressures to get out of the way,” said Diane Coleman, president/CEO of Not Dead Yet.

“If assisted suicide becomes an accepted practice, coverage may be denied for more expensive healthcare, as we’ve already seen in Oregon and California. What is being promoted as a ‘right to die’ could very quickly become an expectation, even a duty to die in this climate.”

Categories: Assisted Suicide