THE BLOG

Disability Advocates, Get Over Your Fear of Us Right-To-Die Folks

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

I live in Oregon, the only U.S. state in which physician-assisted suicide is legal.

I recall a conversation I had a few years ago with one of the major advocates for this legislation. She told me that some of the most vocal opponents were disability rights advocates.

In this, the week that admittedly creepy Jack Kevorkian is released from prison, we're hearing murmurings again from the disability community.

According to the website DiversityInc:

"The furor over Kevorkian's release is being led by Not Dead Yet, a national disability organization that views assisted suicide as the "ultimate form of discrimination (that) has been ignored by most media and courts." The organization states that "For some, a disabled person's suicidal cry for help was ignored, misinterpreted, or even exploited by the right-to-die movement."

Admittedly, I don't have the immediate personal sensitivity to this issue that some disabled persons might have. But as to physician-assisted suicide, I have noticed the cascading inefficacy of pain killer pharmaceuticals administered to some dying friends and loves in their last days on Earth.

From where I sit, I don't see how compassion in dying has anything to do with disability rights. For those of us who want to offer dignity to those whose pain can no longer be nursed, the fact that our society too often treats the disabled as second-class citizens also is a powerful assault on our humane sensitivities.

Could the real issue for some disability advocates be that ongoing life experiences have convinced you that able-bodied citizens feel you are "in the way," and that right-to-die types have as the ultimate goal more tools to get you, our disabled brothers and sisters, "out of the way?"

While I don't have the life experience to see things from your perspective, I have to tell the disability advocate community that such a mind-set strikes me as a bit paranoid. I liken it to the fear in some minority communities that some forms of contraception are really efforts at medically sanctioned genocide.

Disability advocates, please understand we right-to-die types are not your enemies. We are your friends.