September 29, 2017
The Honorable Brad Wenstrup
2419 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Dear Congressman Wenstrup:
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD)--an independent, nonpartisan federal agency charged with providing advice to Congress, the President, and other federal agencies on issues affecting the lives of people with disabilities -- to applaud the introduction of House Concurrent Resolution 80 expressing the sense of Congress that assisted suicide puts everyone, including people with disabilities, “at risk of deadly harm and undermines the integrity of the health care system.”
NCD has always stood up for the right of people with disabilities to exercise self-determination and personal autonomy, but the dignity of people with disabilities should be affirmed not in the manner of their death, but in the value placed on their lives. The appropriate response from society to the needs of people with disabilities is to provide supports that enable them to live independently in the community and to ensure that the services, supports and treatments they need to enhance their quality of life are available and within the control of the recipient so that they can lead fulfilling lives even as they face serious health challenges. This non-binding resolution details the inherent shortcomings of physician assisted suicide laws. Not only do they fail to provide sufficient protections against coercion and other abuses that rob individuals of the ability to make informed end-of-life decisions, they often require doctors to make impossible prognostications regarding both the length and likely quality of a patient’s life. These decisions are also often lacking in transparency.
NCD welcomes this sense of Congress which fundamentally concurs with the position taken by NCD for decades, that policies or practices that support, encourage, or facilitate assisted suicide undermine the healthcare system by asking physicians to be willing to violate their Hippocratic Oath, to “Do No Harm” and poses a higher risk of deadly harm to individuals with disabilities.
This is a complex issue that raises deep and often emotional questions, but the experiences and deliberations of people with disabilities can help enlighten future initiatives undertaken by the Federal Government and the states to refine the law in this area. NCD looks forward to continuing to highlight this invaluable perspective in our conversations with policymakers.
Benro T. Ogunyipe
The Honorable Luis J. Correa
The Honorable Juan Vargas
The Honorable James R. Langevin
The Honorable Daniel Lipinski
The Honorable Andy Harris
The Honorable Darin LaHood
The Honorable Ralph Lee Abraham
The Honorable Keith J. Rothfus
The Honorable Thomas R. Suozzi