Disabled people are some of the loudest opponents of assisted suicide for several reasons. Firstly, they fear that it would fuel negative stereotypes about their quality of life.
Terminal illness is a ground for accessing assisted suicide under the proposals brought forward in the UK. Patients with terminal conditions experience challenges also faced by disabled people, such as decreased mobility, and the need for specialist care. Signalling that the quality of life of patients with terminal illness is enough to merit an assisted death implies that disabled lives are not worth living.
Secondly, they note that in other jurisdictions that have legalised assisted suicide for patients with terminal illness, the law has been widened to allow people with disability to opt for an assisted death. There is no guarantee that this would not happen in the UK, should politicians pursue a change in the law.
Disabled people face marginalisation throughout their lives, particularly in areas such as healthcare and support, access to employment and education, and participation in the wider community. They were also some of the worst affected citizens during the coronavirus pandemic. Research indicates that the pandemic had a worse effect on disabled citizens compared to non-disabled citizens:
Their mental health was worse throughout the pandemic (46 per cent compared to 29 per cent), they felt like more of a burden on others (25 per cent and 10 per cent), they felt more stressed and anxious (67 per cent and 54 per cent), and they felt more lonelier (49 per cent and 37 per cent).
A Better Way
At Better Way, we believe that assisted dying represents a threat to disabled lives and is inconceivable in a context where such inequality exists, compounded by the pandemic of the last two years. We call on politicians to pursue steps to tackle disability inequality instead of undermining the worth of disabled lives through legalising assisted suicide.
Disability charity Scope draws attention to several inequalities disabled people have faced during the pandemic and before in terms of access to food and essentials; welfare; rights and employment. We urge politicians to take note of these and seek to address inequalities in the years ahead.
Read the full report by Scope here.