People with disabilities accuse New York of putting their lives at stake


At the end of May, disability rights activists went to Albany to voice their opposition to the proposed assisted suicide legislation in New York.  Kristen Hanson, Community Relations Advocate at the Patient’s Rights Action Fund, and Stephanie Woodward, Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights and member of ADAPT, joined The Capital Pressroom to discuss why assisted suicide is opposed by nearly all major national disability rights organizations.

In states where assisted suicide is legal, the law has been interpreted such that a terminal diagnosis means six months or less to live “with or without” treatment.  Disability rights activities, like Stephanie Woodward, point out that many individuals with disabilities have chronic treatable conditions that could become terminal if a patient were to forgo treatment or be unable to pay for it if their insurance company denies coverage for the treatment.  For example, diabetes is a very treatable chronic condition that would become terminal for many patients without insulin treatment.

Stephanie points out that “there are no safeguards in this bill or that could ever be created to ensure the elderly and ill people don’t experience abuse or coercion in order to have access to assisted suicide and eventually be killed against their own will.”  Instead, she offers a better way of addressing end of life issues by “ensuring people can receive attendant services in their own home rather than being forced into nursing facilities.  People say they’d rather die than go into a nursing home and they mean that.  So, when we are creating systems in New York that are forcing people into nursing homes then people automatically start feeling depressed and that suicide is their only option because they’re being warehoused away.”

Meanwhile, at the same time legislators are considering assisted suicide legislation, “Starting Sept. 1, the state Department of Health will change the way it pays “fiscal intermediaries” — the nonprofit agencies and companies that handle all the back-office duties for the CDPA program. The change, advocates for the disabled say, will devastate agencies that support the program and could force many to close within a year…”

“The consumer-directed program has roots in New York going back to the late 1970s, when the state was a trendsetter in supporting independence in the “least restrictive environment” for people with disabilities. Now, more than 70,000 New Yorkers use the consumer-directed program.”

“The state anticipates a $75 million savings from this change to the Medicaid-funded program. But advocates like the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State say there are other ways to achieve cost-savings. Various groups and agencies have been meeting with the Department of Health to find alternatives, but they say they have been ignored.”

Read more at LoHud.com…

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