Webcast archive: How NOT to work with disability rights groups

Today, we discuss what to avoid if you want to work with disability rights groups to oppose assisted suicide.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • How NOT to work in coalition with disability rights groups
  • Dying with Dignity loses its charitable status
  • News Briefs

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.


  • Not Dead Yet in the U.S. published a blog post explaining their reasons for not working in coalition with the Family Research Council.
  • Without contacting NDY leaders or working with existing local coalitions that included disability rights activists, FRC sent out announcements to national groups about a meeting in Washington, DC, implying disability participation and support.
  • FRC put NDY Organizer John Kelly’s name on the agenda as a speaker, without asking if he wanted to speak. John refused the “invitation”
  • In the Not Dead Yet blog, President and Founder Diane Coleman noted that NDY has, in fact, worked in coalition with other groups whose politics and philosophies are very different from those of NDY.
  • She stated: “We work in coalition with other groups on the assisted suicide issue, mainly by participating in conference calls to share useful information with groups that we tend to disagree with on other issues.  I’m stating that mildly.  We’ve had a lot of practice, them and us, leaving our disagreements at the door.”
  • Disability groups who oppose assisted suicide have had other problems working with non-disabled groups:
    • Our experience, expertise and authority are neither recognized nor respected;
    • We are used as symbols but excluded from decision-making;
    • The public thinks that we have no opinion or agency apart from other members of the coalition;
    • Members of other groups can’t restrain themselves from expressing their values on other issues besides AS/E, or from speaking about AS/E in ways that confuse the message.
  • Why, then, would we even want to work in coalition?
    • Because we need ideas, support and resources
    • Because union makes us strong
    • Because educating our allies is as important as educating our opponents.
  • How should other groups opposed to AS/E approach working in coalition with us? Diane Coleman offers some suggestions:
    • Contact the leaders and grassroots of the movement that is already working on the ground
    • Approach in a neutral and respectful fashion, keeping in mind the need for accessibility
    • Explain honestly what you are hoping to gain from the cooperation
    • Respect the expertise, experience and authority of people with disabilities. Listen and learn.
    • Negotiate in good faith the terms of the working relationship
    • Focus on the subject of AS/E, and prevent your members from going off message


  • This week we learned that the Canadian group Dying With Dignity has lost its charitable status
  • The Canada Revenue Agency stated the group did not engage in any educational activities of a charitable nature.
  • Loss of charitable status means donors will be unable to deduct a portion of their gift on their taxes.
  • Articles reporting this news have linked the fate of Dying with Dignity with audits being done by CRA of environmental and human rights groups.
  • One article quoted NDP Revenue Agency critic Murray Rankin saying that the Harper Government has targeted groups that do not agree with him.
  • Since the Canadian media seem biased toward AS/E, it’s likely that most people will have the same interpretation as Mr. Rankin.
  • This may lead to an increase in sympathy (and donations) for the group.


Québec’s suicide prevention week is coming up

  • Suicide prevention awareness week will take place from February 1-7 in Québec
  • It’s important to remember that a major risk indicator for suicide is developing a disability or the diagnosis of a serious illness.
  • Our message: Why do non-disabled people who express a desire to die receive suicide prevention services while people with disabilities who say the same thing get help to kill themselves.
  • Keep in mind recent suicides by people with disabilities in Québec have been related to failure to provide adequate treatment or services to support independence.

New bills to legalize assisted suicide filed in the U.S.

  • The “Dying with Dignity” (U.S.) website lists states where they expect bills to legalize assisted will be filed this year.
  • The states are : CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IA, KS, MD, MA, MO, NV, NH, NY, NJ, PA, WY
  • This wave is being supported by the continuing exploitation of Brittany Maynard’s story. Her husband is currently doing the talk show circuit, prompting articles, blog posts and exchanges on social media about the issue.