This article has been corrected.
Endnotes Introduction While many people know that Oregon, Washington State, and California have legalized assisted suicide, it is less well known that approximately half the states in the U. These coalitions typically represent disability rights organizations, physicians and other health care workers, hospice organizations, and Catholics and other right-to-life organizations.
In some cases, they also include organizations representing the Latino community, poor people, and workers. The opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide is often mischaracterized as driven exclusively by religious conservatives, but most current opposition coalitions include many persons and organizations whose opposition is based on their progressive politics.
Among those are disability rights groups; many nationally prominent disability rights organizations oppose the legalization of assisted suicide. Many prominent Democrats and liberals also oppose legalization, including Bill Clinton, Ralph Nader, and noted civil liberties journalist Nat Hentoff.
Assisted suicide strikes many people, when they first hear about it, as a cause to support. But upon closer inspection, there are many reasons why legalization is a serious mistake. Supporters focus on superficial issues of choice and self-determination.
It is crucial to look deeper. Legalizing assisted suicide would not increase choice and self-determination, despite the assertions of its proponents.
It would actually augment real dangers that negate genuine choice and control. Further, this opposition stems from factors that directly impact the disability community as well as all of society. These factors include the secrecy in which assisted suicide operates today, even where it is legal; the lack of robust oversight and the absence of investigation of abuse; the reality of who uses it; the dangers of legalization to further erode the quality of the U.
In view of this reality, we address many of the disability-related effects of assisted suicide, while also encompassing the larger social context that inseparably impacts people with disabilities as well as the broader public.
First, after addressing common misunderstandings, we examine fear and bias toward disability, and the deadly interaction of assisted suicide and our profit-driven health care system. Second, we review the practice of assisted suicide in Oregon, the first U. This article focuses primarily on conditions in the United States, though much of our discussion also applies in other countries.
In short, we must separate our private wishes for what we each may hope to have available for ourselves some day—a hope that often fails to understand how assisted suicide actually operates—and, rather, focus on the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy in our society today.
Assisted suicide would have many unintended consequences. A note about terminology: The words used in this policy debate are controversial. A clear, specific term is needed. The politicization of this terminology is discussed below.
Few Helped, Many Harmed: Disability Prejudice and the Damage to Society A. Legal Alternatives Available Today The movement for the legalization of assisted suicide is driven by anecdotes of people who suffer greatly in the period before they die.
But the overwhelming majority of these anecdotes describe either situations for which legal alternatives exist today, or situations in which the individual would not be legally eligible for assisted suicide. It is legal in every U. It is legal to receive sufficient painkillers to be comfortable, and we now know this will not hasten death.
Thus, there is already a legal recourse for painful deaths. These alternatives do not raise the serious difficulties of legalizing assisted suicide. Moreover, anyone with a chronic but non-terminal illness is not eligible for assisted suicide in either Oregon or Washington State.
Anyone with depression that affects his or her judgment is also ineligible. Consequently, the number of people whose situations would actually be eligible for assisted suicide is extremely low, yet its harmful consequences would be significant. They will tend to be affluent, white, and in possession of good health insurance coverage.
At the same time, large numbers of people, particularly among those less privileged in society, would be at significant risk of harm.In , the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law studied this issue.
Convened by Democratic governor Mario Cuomo, the members were divided on whether assisted suicide could be ethical. Current Church teaching on cannabis legalization in the United States is not one dimensional.
The Catholic perspective that must be applied to the issue of drug policy in the United States. Current Church teaching on cannabis legalization in the United States is not one dimensional.
physician-assisted suicide, even criminal justice reform. Of course, in order to reach a final decision that physician-assisted suicide can be legal upon state approval, the Supreme Court would also need to address the issue as to whether the United States Congress can preempt a state’s approval by issuing national legislation forbidding assisted suicide.
Supporters of physician-assisted death gather outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Source: Reuters As morbid as it is, countless constituents across the United States and abroad knock on Death’s door daily.
In May , an assisted-suicide bill, patterned after Oregon’s law permitting assisted suicide, failed to gain approval in the British Parliament. The bill’s supporters immediately declared that they would reintroduce it during the next parliamentary session. Oregon was the first United States state to legalize assisted suicide, which was achieved through popular vote.
The Act was a citizens' initiative passed twice by Oregon voters. The first time was in a general election in November when it passed by a margin of 51% to 49%.