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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL, Not Dead Yet, and Nine Other Disability Rights Organizations File Brief in New York Assisted Suicide Case

On January 6, NCIL joined Not Dead Yet and nine other national and New York state disability rights organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the New York Appellate Division in support of a lower court ruling dismissing a case seeking to legalize physician assisted suicide. The case is Myers v. Schneiderman.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingAlso joining in the brief were ADAPT, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Center for Disability Rights, the New York Association on Independent Living, and Regional Center for Independent Living, among others.

Each of the Disability Rights Amici brings a specific perspective to the policy debate about assisted suicide. For example, the primary mission of ADAPT is to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities are not forced into nursing facilities, but have the choice to receive consumer directed long term care services in their own home. “If the only alternative to death that those in power offer people who require assistance is poverty and segregation in nursing facilities, then it makes no sense to talk about assisted suicide as a ‘choice’”, said Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer based in Rochester, New York.

Many people with disabilities acquire them as a result of accidents or trauma, and their prognosis is often uncertain in the early stages. “If assisted suicide had been legal in the past, even if it were supposedly only for those with ‘terminal’ conditions, many of us would not be here today,” said Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living. “I might not be here today, and I’m grateful that assisted suicide was not legal back then, and I’m committed to keeping it that way.”

Disability advocates helped lead efforts to prevent passage of assisted suicide bills in at least a dozen states in 2015. Bills to legalize assisted suicide are expected again in many states in 2016. Not Dead Yet and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund offer training to any centers for independent living interested in learning how to effectively oppose these bills.

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