This article represents one side of the debate between Diane Coleman, the founder of the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet and Dr Timothy Quill, a long-time supporter of assisted suicide that waspublished in the Democrat and Chronicle on February 18, 2016.
Diane Coleman: Opposing the aid in dying bill
“I think there is a very strong alliance of different segments of society that are really concerned about the danger of legalizing assisted suicide from the culture we have today,” Coleman said. “Policy makers have to really consider not only the idealized case that proponents put forward on assisted suicide but the real danger that affects so many elderly, ill and disabled people in this society and be sure that the protection that current law offers are still in place to benefit everyone.”
What are the main concerns of people who are opposed to aid-in-dying legislation?
I don’t think I speak for all (opponents), but the disability community's core message is that if assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be lost due to mistakes, coercion and abuse, and that’s an outcome that can never be undone.
There’s inherent discrimination in assisted-suicide laws. Most suicidal people receive suicide prevention. Assisted suicide laws would carve out an exception to that, and that exception would apply to people who are elderly, ill, disabled, and those are devalued groups in society. ... Assisted-suicide laws would say, 'these certain people, we’ll not only agree with their suicide but give them the means to carry it out.' We’re saying it comes down to social justice. Equal rights means equal suicide prevention.
Isn’t this a matter of the individual’s right to choose?
We agree that people have the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. We do think it’s important that that be based on informed consent, that there be protections against health care providers that overrule people who want treatment. We’re also concerned about (a health care proxy) decision being based on the choice of what the person would want if the person were able to speak for themselves.
You should have the choice to get all the pain relief that you need in order to not have any physical pain. You should have the choice to get all the home care you need so you don’t have to feel like a burden on your family or friends.
People do have the choice to commit suicide because suicide and assisted suicide are not exactly the same. It’s the discrimination that’s inherent in assisted suicide that is our concern. But assisted suicide needs to remain illegal because of all the dangers the public policy of assisted-suicide creates of mistake, coercion and abuse. We think everyone deserves suicide prevention no matter how old, no matter how ill, no matter how disabled.