Disability Groups File Amicus Brief in Gonzales v. Oregon


May 9, 2005 -- Eleven prominent disability organizations and one university-based policy center filed a friend of the court brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Oregon assisted suicide case. Not Dead Yet, the leading national disability rights organization opposing legalization of assisted suicide, filed the brief, which supports the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) appeal of the decision in the lower court, which upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law. The following organizations joined the brief filed May 9th in the matter of Oregon v. Gonzales:

Not Dead Yet
Center on Disability Studies, Law and Human Policy at Syracuse University
Center for Self-Determination
Hospice Patients Alliance
Mouth Magazine/Freedom Clearinghouse
National Council on Independent Living
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered
Society for Disability Studies
World Institute on Disability.

Not Dead Yet along with Hospice Patients Alliance and the other co-amici agree with the U.S. Dept. of Justice position that assisted suicide is not a "legitimate medical" use of federally controlled substances, and that it should not exempt Oregon physicians who provide lethal prescriptions under the Oregon assisted suicide law from disciplinary action concerning their licenses to prescribe controlled substances.

Not Dead Yet's amicus brief in the case, joined by the groups listed above, argues that the Oregon assisted suicide law cannot supply a foundation for the "legitimate medical" use for controlled substances.

Oregon's assisted suicide law encourages disabled individuals, those who are "terminal" and those who may not be, to end their lives -- and guarantees such efforts will result in death -- while other state laws concurrently discourage non-disabled persons from suicide.

"If assisted suicide were really about personal autonomy, it would be available to all suicidal people," said Diane Coleman, president and founder of Not Dead Yet. "But really, assisted suicide statutes are the ultimate societal judgment that the life of a person with a disability is not as worthwhile as that of a non-disabled person."

Assisted suicide also raises serious ethical concerns regarding the medical profession's treatment of disabled people. It requires doctors to make difficult, if not impossible, determinations of a person's competency and life expectancy, the consequences of which are both ultimate and irreversible. According to attorney Max Lapertosa, assisted suicide is a "dangerous distraction from policies that really enhance people's independence and dignity -- access to palliative care and other forms of community-based long-term care."


The full brief may be found at:

For more information: Max Lapertosa, Counsel of Record
312-253-7000, ext. 131
Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet
708-209-1500 ext. 11

Ron Panzer, President Hospice Patients Alliance