Congress should keep the ADA in mind when setting assisted suicide policy

Congress should keep the ADA in mind when setting assisted suicide policy

Lawmakers like Reps. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) have done the American people a great service by calling out assisted suicide for the dangerous public policy that it is. This newly introduced truly bipartisan Sense of Congress resolution shines a light on the many dangers of assisted suicide and is a concrete step toward protecting vulnerable patients across the country.

There are many dangerous aspects to assisted suicide laws and proposals, but one of the more disturbing is that they are inherently discriminatory against persons with disabilities.

Non-disabled persons often don’t appreciate the struggle people with disabilities face when trying to access the care that they need. A recent report published by the National Council on Disability (NCD) pointed out that people with disabilities regularly experience demoralization both because the need for help is perceived as undignified and burdensome, but also because many think that life with a disability is a fate worse than death. It is just this kind of ableist predisposition that, in the context of our broken health care system, allows public policy like assisted suicide laws to create a two-tiered system where some people get suicide prevention and others, namely people with life-threatening disability, get suicide help.

The inherently discriminatory nature of assisted suicide laws and practice against people with disabilities is unacceptable in the country that passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the ADA, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” To qualify for assisted suicide, the patient is supposed to have a six month or less prognosis, which can be with or without treatment, so treatable conditions like kidney disease, lymphoma, HIV, and diabetes – all disabilities – qualify a person for assisted suicide. In fact, all listed diseases that qualify people for assisted suicide in Oregon, by definition, make the patient a person with disabilities according to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. That means only people with disabilities are eligible for assisted suicide.

Read more at The Hill…