Assisted Suicide Laws May Harm People with Disabilities

Photo Credit: Not Dead Yet Massachusetts


Compassionate medical care and end of life considerations are some of the most complex and difficult issues facing families, and society in general. It is a reality that may only intensify against a backdrop of an aging population.

In the United States, the number of older individuals outpaces younger generations. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 years old, and the population of those 65 and older is projected to nearly double by 2050 (Census).

Longevity is one trend that drives us to evaluate how we provide care for aging adults, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. End of life issues are particularly challenging, especially when society seeks answers in public policy.

Assisted suicide is part of a constellation of end-of-life issues. While some advocate for its legalization as a personal decision, there can be unintended consequences.

In the 115th Congress (2017-2018), a Sense of Congress Resolution (H.Con.Res.80) garnered bipartisan support and expressed awareness that assisted suicide can put vulnerable people at risk of harm.

The Nation Council on Disability is a long-time opponent of assisted suicide laws. In fact, the NCD issued its first report on this issue in 1997, and another in 2005. They concluded that the interests of the few people who would benefit from assisted suicide were “heavily outweighed by the probability that any law, procedures, and standards that can be imposed to regulate physician assisted suicide will be misapplied to unnecessarily end the lives of people with disabilities.”

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