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Better to Be Dead than Disabled?

The disability rights group Not Dead Yet is leading a three-day protest vigil against the World Federation of Right to Die Societies which is holding a meeting that I am attending in Chicago.  

Disability rights advocates have certainly expressed some valid concerns about the expansion of options to hasten death.  Legislators, regulators, and clinicians should seriously grapple with concerns like risks of bias and coercion.  

Unfortunately, the disability groups reach far beyond their valid concerns to make hyperbolic comments.  For example, Not Dead Yet president Diane Coleman stated: “We are here to contradict the message of these groups that it’s better to be dead than disabled.”  

That is emphatically not the message of any group attending this meeting.  The core thesis of this meeting is that particular individuals, after careful deliberation, may determine that in their own situation they want to avoid the effects of advanced illnesses like severe dementia.  They would rather die than live a life that they find intolerable. 

There has not been a single suggestion about what individuals ought to choose.  The focus remains on what individuals may choose, on what they have a right to choose for themselves.

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