Coercion is a major concern. Elder abuse and disability abuse are both common. Disabled people are already killed by others, most often their family and caregivers, at astonishing rates. We have to hold a Day of Mourning each year to remember our dead. For nearly every murder of a disabled person, there are numerous articles calling that murder “mercy”. Because surely disability is a fate worse than death, just like those ” right to die ” folks said.
The physicians abled advocates and legislators have appointed gatekeepers of assisted death are usually abled themselves. They fall prey to the same errors in imagination as others, only with fatal consequence. Doctors greatly underestimate the quality of disabled lives, based on their faulty beliefs and not based on how disabled people report quality of life. What’s more, the major inhibitors to a higher quality of living for disabled people are socially imposed, like poverty level disability benefits and ableist exclusion.
I think it’s also worth contemplating who should pay for assisted death if we’re going to have it. Should insurance companies be required to cover it? What happens if death is cheaper than life saving treatment? Should the government foot the bill, and be trusted not to engage in the same racial bias it does on death row? What about if it’s an individual expense? Won’t that make “dignity” a consumer good only some can afford?
In a country where we are already being killed and our killers are already receiving more sympathy than our dead, I think assisted suicide is a solution in search of a problem. The suffering disabled people experience is caused by bigotry – by disgust at adult diapers, by refusal to hire disabled employees, by making disabled people feel so guilty for being burdens they kill themselves to please you. Our bodies are not why we seek death; ableism is.
I will never support laws that make exceptions for the killing of me and mine, laws dreamed up and drafted by people who are not themselves disabled. “Mercy killing” of disabled people was quite literally how Hitler started his program of mass extermination. The very first person to die for the sake of Nazi “purity” was a young boy, whose farther wrote to the Führer asking for a solution to his burden.
Include disabled people in every facet of life, from the classroom to the workplace to politics to medical ethics. Raise disability benefits to comfortable levels. Incorporate usability and universal design in all spaces. Provide adequate personal aids and home health nurses to allow for supported independent living. Require insurance companies to cover diapers and other products that promote dignity. These are the solutions disabled people need. Not death. Dignity.