The National Council on Disability (NCD) released the findings of a Federal examination of the country's assisted suicide laws and their effect on people with disabilities, asserting that the laws' safeguards are ineffective and oversight of abuses and mistakes is absent.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed assisted suicide laws that make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients diagnosed with terminal illness and with a prognosis of six months or less to live, if certain procedural steps are followed.
Despite the belief that pain relief is the primary motivation, in "Assisted Suicide Laws and their Danger to People with Disabilities," NCD found that the most-prevalent reasons offered by someone requesting assisted suicide are related directly to unmet service and support needs, which NCD urges policymakers to respond to through legislative changes and funding.
"Assisted suicide laws are premised on the notion of additional choice for people at the end of their lives. However, in practice, they often remove choices when the low-cost option is ending one's life versus providing treatments to lengthen it or services and supports to improve it," says NCD Chairman Neil Romano.
Closely examining the experience in Oregon, where the practice has been legal for 20 years, NCD found that the list of conditions eligible for assisted suicide has expanded considerably over time, including many disabilities that, when properly treated, do not result in death, including arthritis, diabetes, and kidney failure.
The report also notes suicide contagion in states where assisted suicide...