Disability Community Credited With Defeating California Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 6, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Disability Community Credited With Defeating California Assisted Suicide Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 6,

Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — Backers of the bill that would have legalized assisted suicide in California fell short in June from having enough votes to advance the measure in the state Assembly. Now, as they and others look back on the latest defeat the power of the disability community to stop the bill is coming to light.

When lawmakers try to legalize assisted suicide, pro-life advocates and members of the medical community get involved to protect the elderly and disabled.

However, few groups had the kind of impact as those would be affected the most — disabled people who could become victims of euthanasia.

The Los Angeles Times profiled the impact of the disabled rights activists and Paul Longmore, a history professor at San Francisco State and a member of the community, said disabled Californians played a big role.

Disabled people, Longmore said, "probably even more than most other citizens, understand the kind of suffering and needless pain that’s inflicted on a lot of people and leaves some of them to prefer to die when they can’t get the help they need."

Marilyn Golden, a policy analyst for the Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education Defense Fund who fought against the bill, told the Times that disabled people "have a lot of credibility on this."

"We are on the front lines of this issue as it actually plays out in the medical system," she said.

The biggest admission of the role the disabled community played came from Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, a Democrat who was one of the main co-sponsors of the bill.

He told the newspaper "we really had two main groups working against us: the Catholic Church and the disability rights folks."

That combination of more liberal disabled activists and more conservative pro-life advocates is a powerful team that has stopped assisted suicide not only in California but in Hawaii, Vermont, Michigan, and Maine as well.

"What has happened in each of these states," Golden said, "is that a cross-constituency has come together that spans left, right and center."

To keep euthanasia at bay, that coalition needs to continue.