One argument against assisted dying is that it would put the community of the disabled at risk. Here are some facts:
The disability community supports assisted dying
There is significant support from people with a disability. 86% of disabled people surveyed in the UK supported assisted dying in 2015.
The survey shows an increase in support of 6% on the survey of 2013.
The latest survey, which asked the opinions of 1,036 disabled people, found that:
- 46% believed disability rights groups should remain neutral on the issue of assisted dying
- 36% believed disability rights groups should support assisted dying
- 8% believed disability rights groups should oppose assisted dying
New Zealand surveys of the disability community on assisted dying
The problem is that these don’t exist.
This was pointed out by PhD student Jessica Young who headed up a group of researchers at Otago University studying New Zealanders’ attitudes to assisted dying over the past 20 years.
She identified an important gap in the research. At no point has there ever been a study undertaken to ascertain the attitudes of the New Zealand disability community towards assisted dying.
If such research were undertaken, we could expect results similar to that in UK above namely: 86% of people with a disability in favour of assisted dying and a total of 82% wishing their disability support groups to remain either neutral or positive towards assisted dying.
The voice of the Disability Commissioner should not be heard in isolation
The role of the Disability Commissioner is important and valuable. It has the primary objectives of preventing discrimination and inequitable treatment of the disability community and of protecting those with a disability from policies and activities that could expose them to disadvantage.
It is not the role of the Disability Commissioner to make personal decisions for all people with a disability.
In jurisdictions where assisted dying is legally available, there is no evidence that people with a disability are either over-represented or negatively impacted.
Support groups such as the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Cancer Society have taken neutral positions towards assisted dying and have made submissions to that effect. They acknowledge that the widely varied opinions of their members gives them no right to either support or oppose assisted dying.
New Zealand law should be based on facts and evidence, not on conjecture or unfounded hypothesis
Ann David is a retired human resources professional living in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. She has been a campaigner for the right to die with dignity for the past 15 years, initially in Australia and since 2009, in New Zealand. She is a member of the End of Life Choice Society and of the NZARH.