Friday, February 23, 2024

EPC-USA Disability Rights Statement in STRONG OPPOSITION to New York Assisted Suicide Bill

Dear Members of the New York Assembly:

The EPC-USA has already submitted testimony regarding the social harms attached to assisted suicide legislation like A995A. However, given that assisted suicide’s negative impact is going to fall primarily on the disabled community, the EPC felt that we should submit a more detailed analysis of how assisted suicide undermines disability rights, and whose advice on this matter ought to be heeded by members of the Assembly.

Members of the EPC board with training in the fields of disability studies and advocacy have noted that some assisted suicide advocates are trying to hijack disability rights for their own purposes. For instance, an able-bodied man named Christopher Riddle has done pro-assisted suicide advocacy in New York while presenting himself as a “disability rights advocate.” Riddle is a colleague of Udo Schuklenk, one of the architects of Canada’s euthanasia program, and Riddle enthusiastically approves of that program.

Moreover, Riddle’s theories about disability rights have been reasonably criticized as lacking any empirical grounding in the experiences of disabled people. He has no experience or personal stake in the practical implications of his ideas.

Furthermore, Riddle’s scholarship dehumanizes disabled people who are harmed by assisted suicide; he frames anyone who might be harmed by assisted suicide as the equivalent of a car accident statistic. He asserts that harm that assisted suicide might cause for people with disabilities “ought not to be of special concern.” Hence, Riddle is willing to sacrifice people with disabilities for the right to die movement’s agenda; he is not the “disability rights advocate” he claims to be.

For a more accurate understanding of how the disabled community has approached the issue of assisted suicide, we encourage you to watch a video created by disability studies ethicist Harold Braswell about disability rights opposition to assisted suicide. Braswell has studied the right to die issue extensively.

There are other very important facts that legislators must take into account when considering how assisted suicide is impacting the disabled community:

The American Association of Suicidology made a 2017 statement saying that “MAiD” was not suicide. But in 2023 the AAS had to retract that statement because it was used in the 2019 Truchon decision that expanded assisted suicide to disabled Canadians, which was opposed by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.The consequences of the AAS’s statement are an example of how green lighting assisted suicide for the terminally ill easily results in violence against people with disabilities.

In 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of People with Disabilities asserted that all assisted suicide laws violate its Convention On The Rights of People with Disabilities.

Peer-reviewed research establishes that people are more likely to view suicide as acceptable if the victim is disabled, and people with disabilities often lack access to comprehensive suicide prevention care. This bill exacerbates that problem by laying the scaffolding for “MAiD” to become a substitute for the suicides of persons with disabilities.

Well-known right to die leader Thaddeus Mason Pope has tweeted that it’s good for disabled people to die by suicide; the director of Compassion and Choices appeared on Dr. Phil with Pope in 2023. If you pass this bill, you empower and reward a contingent of people who want disabled people’s suicides to be a “medical procedure.”

We urge you to allow A995A to die this session because regardless of its content, it rewards a movement that is hostile to people with disabilities. Exacerbating the oppression that disabled people already face so that the proponents can plan their deaths is unwise and unjust.


Meghan Schrader, Disability Rights EPC-USA

Josephine L.A. Glaser, MD.,FAAFP

Colleen E. Barry, Chairperson

Kenneth Stevens, MD

William Toffler, MD

Gordon Friesen

Alex Schadenberg

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an exemplary summary of the effects of pro-death laws on people with disabilities. It will certainly be effective in influencing the thinking of the decision-making officials in New York. However, it must be kept in mind that the deleterious effects of pro-death laws on the disability community do not resonate with the swing voters within the general public. Because we live in a more-or-less democracy, the opinion of the general public matters. Political action is not primarily an effort to change people’s philosophical orientation or correct their prejudicial thinking, but rather, it is an attempt to connect people’s already existing values and desires with a political choice (i.e., the choice of what side of an issue to stand on, or which candidate to vote for). I would like to challenge the authors of this letter of testimony to think outside their comfort zone in order to understand what it will take to not only prevent pro-death laws from being enacted, but also to rescind the ones that are already on the books. I keep seeing a seemingly willful ignorance on the part of anti-death law activists to acknowledge the need to formulate messaging that resonates with swing voters, and until I do, I will regrettably conclude that the movement to stop and reverse pro-death laws is doomed. Sincerely, Thomas Lester