October 29, 2020

Disability Rights Proponent Argues Against Assisted Suicide in Interview with The Advocate

photo credit: Matthew Perkins / Flickr
John Kelly, the regional director of New England's chapter of the disability advocacy organization Not Dead Yet, was interviewed by The Independent about how legalized assisted suicide puts the lives of the disabled at risk.

“I myself am paralyzed below my shoulders,” Kelly told the Independent. “So I get to see a barrage of better-dead-than-disabled messages, as carried in such by films like Me Before You, Million Dollar Baby, etc.”

Citing data from Oregon's annual assisted suicide report, Kelly noted that 87% of those who desired assisted suicide did so due to "loss of autonomy."

“These bills depend on a view that people with severe disabilities, and that includes people who are ‘terminally ill’, have such a low quality of life that they're better off dead,” Mr Kelly said. “What these bills say is that this is a personal benefit, a social benefit. And so when people are given a pass to commit assisted suicide because of their disabilities, well, then those same views will be applied to people who are outside of an assisted-suicide situation.”

If many people with disabilities come to believe that their lives aren't worth living and choose assisted suicide, this creates social-pressure for other disabled people to choose suicide, even if that would not have been on their minds otherwise.

“People are very susceptible to others,” Kelly said, “and when everyone around you thinks things would be better if you were dead, well that's going to encourage people.”

“I sympathize with people who suddenly become disabled … but that's where we help people. We make sure that people know that they're valued and they're just as much of a full human being as they have ever been. It's tragic to see people wanting to die because of shame and humiliation.

The Independent also communicated with Dr. T Brian Callister, a professor of medicine at the University of Nevada. He told the independent about two patients of his who were denied care by their insurance companies and instead offered assisted suicide. He argued that more legal assisted suicide laws would only continue this trend for patients who could otherwise recover from their illnesses. “What happens is that your choice for lifesaving treatment is going to be limited by the fact that the insurance companies now have a cheaper option,” Dr. Callister said.

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