Assisted Suicide Laws

DREDF, along with numerous other nationally prominent disability organizations, opposes the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Legalization is a serious mistake for many reasons that are not always immediately apparent. Supporters often focus solely on issues of choice and self-determination, but actually, legalization would restrict choice and self-determination.

It is crucial to look deeper. For example, assisted suicide would be a deadly mix with our broken, profit-driven health care system.

It is imperative to distinguish personal wishes from the significant dangers to society of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy. The legalization of assisted suicide has many harmful consequences.

Find out why DREDF regards the legalization of assisted suicide as a dangerous mistake.

See below regarding assisted suicide. Or read about the dangerous campaign by assisted suicide proponents for so-calledEnd-of-Life-Care / Patients Right to Know Acts.”

California End of Life Option Act: Implementation Issues

SEE Recommendations and Questions to Consider


  1. Read DREDF’s updated statement, Why Assisted Suicide Must Not Be Legalized.
  2. See short DREDF handout summarizing our Key Objections to the Legalization of Assisted Suicide.
  3. Read about So-called Safeguards and Minimal Oversight: The Assisted Suicide Law in Oregon
  4. Presentation to the Older Women’s League (PDF), January 2015.
  5. A Primer on Assisted Suicide Laws (PDF) provides information for state legislators and others about the harms and dangers of bills to legalize assisted suicide. The Primer was developed by the Patients Rights Action Fund and DREDF.
  6. DREDF’s overview of the assisted suicide issue, Killing Us Softly: The Dangers of Legalizing Assisted Suicide (PDF), was published in the Disability and Health Journal, January 2010.
  7. Read Op Eds by DREDF staff and board members:
    1. An op ed at, “The danger of assisted suicide laws
    2. An Op-Ed by DREDF board member Ann Cupolo-Freeman, January 31, 2015
    3. An Op Ed targeted at progressive readers in Beyond Chron, April 12, 2005
    4. An Op Ed, “What You Don’t Know Can Kill You,” in the Sacramento, California Capitol Weekly, April 26, 2007
    5. An Op Ed in the San Jose Mercury News, March 1, 2007

B. Other Short Handouts

  1. Some Oregon and Washington State Assisted Suicide Abuses and Complications.
  2. New Watchdog Website by the Patients Rights Action Fund provides concerned individuals, family members, and friends the opportunity, where assisted suicide is legal, to bring forward your reports of possible coercion, failure to identify depression or other mental health concerns, or complications arising from the prescribing lethal drugs. Share your story and make a difference!
  3. Margaret Dore’s important article from the King County Bar Association (Seattle, Washington) about how assisted suicide increases elder abuse and decreases self-determination.
  4. Leaflet in English and Spanish (PDF) summarizing the serious problems of assisted suicide laws. Developed by Not Dead Yet and DREDF.
  5. Statement of The Arc Maryland (PDF) about the risks to people with intellectual & developmental disabilities (ID/DD)
  6. Attempts to Legalize Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide in the United States shows the many failed attempts to legalize assisted suicide, and the few that have succeeded. Thanks to the Patients Rights Council for maintaining this important site!
  7. Lists of national and California disability organizations that oppose the legalization of assisted suicide.
    1. List of national disability organizations
    2. List of California disability organizations
  8. Belgian doctors killing patients who have not asked to die
  9. A doctor in the Netherlands warns, Don’t make our mistake (PDF) and Governor should have talked to Holland before signing bill.
  10. Terminal Uncertainty, article from Seattle Weekly, showing how frequently doctors’ prognoses of terminal illness are wrong.
  11. Assisted suicide would be fraught with problems and abuses, as shown in this op ed by Stephen Mendelsohn in the Connecticut Mirror, and his testimony.
  12. In this critically important State of Oregon news release from 2005, which was posted for years on the Department of Human Services website but has apparently now been removed, Oregon acknowledges the state has no authority to investigate assisted suicide problem cases (PDF).
  13. John Kelly’s Testimony before the New Jersey Health and Senior Services Committee covers a broad range of issues. John Kelly is the New England Regional Director for Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights group that has long opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide. John is also the director of Massachusetts Second Thoughts: People with Disabilities Opposing the Legalization of Assisted Suicide.
  14. Denise Figueroa explores the connection between insurance decisions and assisted suicide (PDF) in her letter to the editor of the Albany Times Union.
  15. The late Dr. Paul Longmore, Professor of History, San Francisco State University, compiled three leaflets about assisted suicide in Oregon:
    1. Spurious Safeguards
    2. Flimsy Reporting, No Regulation
    3. Pro-Suicide Doctors

C. Medical

  1. Read an important article from the Michigan Law Review, June 2008, entitled “Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective” (PDF) which describes how “seemingly reasonable safeguards for the .. protection of terminally ill patients written into the Oregon law are being circumvented … primarily [due to] the Oregon Public Health Division, which is charged with monitoring the law.”

    The article was written by Dr. Herbert Hendin and Dr. Kathleen Foley. Herbert Hendin is Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director, Suicide Prevention International, and Professor of Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Kathleen Foley is Attending Neurologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Clinical Pharmacology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; and Medical Director, International Palliative Care Initiative of the Open Society Institute.

  2. Read testimony by Dr. Gregory Hamilton focusing on problems posed by assisted suicide in Oregon for people with mental health disabilities. Dr. Hamilton is Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Co-founder of Physicians for Compassionate Care.

    Also see Dr. Gregory Hamilton and Catherine Hamilton, M.A.’s article on the Michael Freeland case.

  3. Read testimony by Dr. Rex Greene to the California Medical Association in 2006. Dr. Greene is the former Medical Director of the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center at Mills Health Center in San Mateo, California; currently a member of the AMA Ethics Council; and a leader in bioethics, health policy and oncology.
  4. Read another article by Dr. Herbert Hendin about Oregon and the Netherlands in Psychiatric Times.
  5. Association of Northern California Oncologists & Medical Oncology Association of Southern California, Position Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide and Opposition to AB 374 (PDF), April 16, 2007.
  6. Letter by Dr. Herbert Hendin to New York state legislators (PDF), summarizing some of the problems with the Oregon Model.
  7. This overview from Current Oncology (PDF) found that, in countries and states where assisted suicide or euthanasia has been legalized, safeguards are ignored, hundreds of deaths occur without consent, half of all cases can go unreported, and the practice has been extended to newborns, children, and people with dementia.
  8. Op-Ed by Dr. William Toffler in the Wall Street Journal, with his perspective as an Oregon doctor on the flaws in Oregon’s law.
  9. Op-Ed by Dr. Robin Bernhoft about how assisted suicide can result from poor doctoring.
  10. Dr. Laura Petrillo explains who is at risk.
  11. Dr. Aaron Kheriaty describes the risk to people with mental health issues as well as the danger of suicide contagion, in his letter to the California Assembly.
  12. Dr. Charles Bentz describes the poor treatment received by his patient under the Oregon law, entreating another state to “Say No to Assisted Suicide” (PDF).
  13. This JAMA article, “Why Physicians Should Oppose Assisted Suicide,” focuses on the traditional physician’s role and also explains that, where assisted suicide is legal, pain is not a reason patients resort to it. JAMA is the Journal of the American Medical Association. Note: Non-subscribers can only view page 1 of this 1.5 page article.
  14. Anesthesiologists warn of many problems and complications with assisted suicide and euthanasia, in Canada’s National Post.

D. Disability

  1. Read excellent article by Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, on the website of the American Bar Association entitled “Assisted Suicide and Disability: Another Perspective,” (PDF) which lays out some basic tenets of the disability rights movement’s critique of the legalization of assisted suicide. Not Dead Yet represents the disability rights movement’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
  2. Ruthie Poole, President of MPOWER, shows how people experiencing depression, or with psychiatric diagnoses (PDF), are at serious risk of harm from assisted suicide laws. MPOWER represents people with lived experience of mental health diagnosis.
  3. This Not Dead Yet Disability Leaflet quotes leading disability rights leaders on why assisted suicide laws are a mistake, and lists the major U.S. national organizations opposing such laws.
  4. Marg Hall’s op ed in the San Jose Mercury News, Killing Us Softly, shows how many groups in the disability community are at particular risk from assisted suicide laws, including people with dementia, depression, communication impairments including deafness, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  5. Diane Coleman’s Opinion from New, The dangerous ‘help’ of assisted suicide (PDF), shows why New Jersey’s Oregon-style bill would be a public policy mistake, including her point that “As one of countless disabled people who’s survived a terminal prediction, I can’t help but become concerned when the accuracy of a terminal prognosis determines whether someone gets suicide assistance rather than prevention.”
  6. Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, explains “Why Disability Rights Organizations Oppose Assisted Suicide Laws
  7. Read Ken Barnes’ commentary, “Assisted suicide: Is it simply death over disability?,” (PDF) about disability prejudice, pressures toward assisted suicide, and the stories of his own family members. Ken Barnes is a former executive committee member of the California State Conference of the NAACP.
  8. Disability Rights Wisconsin, the state’s protection and advocacy agency (PDF), explains its opposition to assisted suicide laws.
  9. Second Thoughts Grow on Assisted Suicide from the Wall Street Journal provides the analysis of Not Dead Yet’s Diane Coleman, President, and Stephen Drake, Research Analyst, showing that the risks of mistake, coercion and abuse are too great to warrant legal immunity for doctors who help end lives. Note: A Wall Street Journal subscription is needed to read the full article. E-access costs only $1 for the first two months, when DREDF last checked.
  10. This letter from Disability Rights California (PDF), California’s protection and advocacy system, explains DRC’s rigorous analysis that rejected California’s Oregon-style assisted suicide proposal, due to its lack of safeguards, its problematic practices, its failure to ensure the absence of undue pressures, and other problems.
  11. Dana Palmer of Colorado received a 3 to 12 month prognosis in 2005, and wrote this guest column in 2016 (PDF). Her column in The Gazette addresses burden, insurance issues, and the dangerous message of assisted suicide.
  12. Lindsay Baran (National Council on Independent Living) and Anne Sommers (Not Dead Yet) in the Washington Examiner argue that legalizing Doctor-prescribed suicide is never the answer.
  13. Diane Coleman’s blog, Coombs Lee Advocates First Step Toward Deregulation of Assisted Suicide, shows how the paucity of controls and data collection in assisted suicide laws today already pose significant danger, with major unanswered questions and underlying anti-disability bias.
  14. Samantha Crane shows the disability connection in this Baltimore Sun op ed, Aid in living, not dying (PDF).
  15. Stephanie Woodward explains why disabled people like her fear medically assisted suicide.
  16. Carrie Ann Lucas, attorney, disabled woman, activist, and mother of four, explains the dangers she personally fears if the assisted suicide proposal in her state of Colorado is enacted. Denver Post: Legalizing assisted suicide in Colorado would threaten disabled (PDF).
  17. This op-ed by Ben Mattlin shows the subtle, even well-meaning pressures that emerge, “persuasive as a tsunami,” when one’s physical autonomy is seriously compromised.
  18. Read Carol Gill’s excellent article in the Disability and Health Journal, January 2010, responding to distortions of disability rights arguments against assisted suicide (PDF).
  19. Read the disability rights brief to the Montana Supreme Court (PDF). The brief explains that there is no legitimate state interest, let alone a compelling one, for finding a constitutional right to assisted suicide for all or some (e.g. “terminal”) people with disabilities. It degrades the value and worth of people with disabilities and violates the rights enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  20. A Bioethicist Offers An Apology
  21. Killing with kindness: Why the Death With Dignity Act endangers people with disabilities (PDF)
    From the Boston Phoenix, by S.I. Rosenbaum

E. Suicide Contagion

  1. This anonymous letter from Ellen, a Californian with psychiatric disabilities who has struggled for many years with suicidality, was written to California senators. It explains compellingly why legalizing assisted suicide would send a green light to her and others that committing suicide is OK.
  2. Read A Deadly Model: Suicide Contagion (PDF) about why suicide contagion is another deadly consequence of assisted suicide laws.
  3. Read Dr. Will Johnston’s letter about a young adult who became suicidal after watching a video of Brittany Maynard.
  4. Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty’s analysis of suicide contagion appeared in the Washington Post in 2015. Note: Ten articles a month are free on this website.

F. Other Important Readings

  1. Read the brief from the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide to the Montana Supreme Court, which shows how assisted suicide in Oregon lacks transparency and provides a false sense of protection; health insurance programs will authorize assisted suicide over more costly medical treatment; and legalized assisted suicide masks domestic and elder abuse.
  2. See a chart showing Oregon Physician-Assisted Suicide: Theory vs. Practice, compiled by Dr. Robert D. Orr, President of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care.
  3. See a 2004 study from the Journal of Palliative Care showing a reduction in the quality of palliative care at end-of-life in Oregon since assisted suicide began.
    1. Press release about the study
    2. The study itself
  4. Read the book The Case Against Assisted Suicide – For the Right to End-of-Life Care, edited by Kathleen Foley, M.D., and Herbert Hendin, M.D., John Hopkins University Press, 2002, $26.95 in paperback. Two outstanding chapters are:
    1. Chapter 8, “Oregon’s Culture of Silence” by Dr. Gregory Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton is Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Co-founder of Physicians for Compassionate Care.
    2. Chapter 10, “Not Dead Yet” by Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet.
  5. Read DREDF’s old statement against the legalization of assisted suicide.

G. Links

  1. Not Dead Yet (NDY)
  2. Patients Rights Action Fund (PRAF)
  3. Patients RIghts Council
  4. Physicians for Compassionate Care (PCC)
  5. Californians Against Assisted Suicide
  6. California Disability Alliance (CDA)