2. What’s disability got to do with it? Isn’t assisted suicide only for people who are terminally ill?

  • Practically all people with “terminal illness” (six months or less to live) have disabilities.
  • In every place where assisted suicide is supposed to be only for people who are “terminally ill,” people who are not “terminally ill” are routinely helped to die.
  • It is very hard to predict how long someone will live, and doctors sometimes make incorrect diagnoses.  We all know someone who has “beaten the odds” and lived much longer than doctors expected.  In fact, reports from Oregon Public Health on that state’s “death with dignity” law show that during every year since the program began, people have outlived the six-month cut-off. See Oregon Public Health Division, Center for Health Statistics, Oregon Health Authority (2012), Oregon Death with Dignity Act: data summary 2012, State of Oregon, Portland.
  • Under most assisted suicide laws, people with chronic illness and disability are also eligible for assisted suicide.
  • In places where assisted suicide is legal, standards for who is eligible have grown more and more relaxed.  For example, in the Netherlands, people who are old or simply “tired of life” can have a mobile euthanasia unit come to their home.  In Belgium, two deaf men were given euthanasia in 2013 because they were losing their sight, and believed that being deaf/blind would be worse than dying. [Source: Huffington Post]
  • People with disabilities are in a “high-risk” category because minor problems can – and often do – become life-threatening.  In the hospital, people with disabilities are often badgered to sign “Do Not Resuscitate” orders or encouraged to refuse treatment.
  • Nearly all end-of-life care issues – such as access to good health care and pain relief, in-home personal care, peer counseling, and family supports – have been disability rights issues for decades.