Despite leading disability rights organizations’ long history of opposition to legalization of assisted suicide, the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a hearing yesterday on the state’s proposed assisted suicide bill without inviting any representatives of the disability community as witnesses. People with disabilities, who are often presumed to be better off dead than disabled, are particularly vulnerable to abuse under assisted suicide laws. In Oregon, disability – not terminal pain – is the #1 reason cited by individuals seeking assisted suicide. These deaths stem from widespread devaluation of disabled lives and financial pressures facing people in need of intensive supports and palliative care.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is deeply concerned about the omission of disabled people and representatives from disability rights organizations at yesterday’s hearing. Given that more than half of the groups in the New Jersey coalition opposing the bill are disability rights organizations and centers for independent living, it is unconscionable that the committee deliberately excluded witnesses from the disability community. Even after our community submitted a formal request for inclusion among the witnesses, the committee declined to invite a disability community representative.
People with disabilities are among the constituencies most deeply impacted by assisted suicide legislation. It is vital that we are included in the policymaking process on issues that will affect our lives, especially ones as dangerous as the specter of legalized assisted suicide.
Nothing About Us, Without Us!