By Samantha Craine
Around the country we have seen a concerted effort by special interest groups to promote the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, including legislation introduced in Maryland.Although these groups claim to be speaking for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, no major nationwide disability rights groups support physician-assisted suicide. In fact, these laws make people with disabilities more vulnerable and reinforce the damaging perception that life with a disability is "undignified" and not worth living.
Although assisted suicide advocates claim that their legislation is about terminal illness and not disability, many of the arguments presented in favor of such physician-assisted-suicide legislation here and around the country assert a supposed "indignity" in needing help to eat, move, breathe or take medications. These arguments are rooted in a belief that it is better to die than to depend on others for assistance.
This belief is so pervasive that many people who become disabled find themselves struggling with suicidal thoughts. These thoughts may stem from the feeling that one is a burden on family members, fear of being placed in an institutional setting like a nursing home, or isolation as a result of lack of in-home supports. Moreover, people with disabilities are at heightened risk of abuse, isolation and exploitation.