Ethics Committee Statement on Massachusetts Initiative

NCPD Ethics Committee Issues Statement

Why People with Disabilities Have an Interest in Defeating Initiative Petition 1112

Initiative Petition 1112 will allow Massachusetts residents to ask their physicians for lethal medication to kill themselves. Presently, it authorizes only those with terminal diseases to make such request. Nevertheless, if adopted, it will create a real threat to all people with disabilities.

The fact is that people with terminal diseases are disabled. Under Massachusetts law, “handicap” includes any physical impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities [,]” such as “caring for one's self,” “performing manual tasks,” or even “breathing.” Few, if any, terminal diseases would fall outside such definition.

 

The Initiative Petition is merely the first step toward making lethal medication available to all those with severe disabilities.

If loss of autonomy and loss of dignity are accepted as valid reasons for killing oneself, it will legitimate the prejudice that has long underlaid treatment of disabled people as second-class. The citizens of Massachusetts should utterly reject “the view that an acceptable answer to discrimination and prejudice is to assure the ‘right to die’ to those against whom the discrimination and prejudice exists.
 
Accordingly, people with disabilities have good reason to oppose this deeply flawed initiative petition.