Assisted Suicide Laws Concern Disability Advocates

CW: Assisted Suicide

Four disability groups have launched a lawsuit aimed at overturning California’s assisted suicide law, claiming that it devalues their lives and encourages discrimination against them.

The original California law permitting terminally ill persons to receive prescriptions for life-ending medications was passed in 2016. According to advocates, the amended version, which went into effect last year, lacks critical safeguards and violates both the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Plaintiffs in the federal action, filed in Los Angeles County, contend that people with disabilities and racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to use life-ending medications because those groups are less likely to obtain sufficient medical and mental health care.

Advocates are concerned that vulnerable persons will be coerced into suicide by family members or caregivers, or that they will feel pressure themselves because they do not want to be a burden.

According to the lawsuit, California’s approach, known as the End of Life Option Act, is reminiscent of the discredited practice of eugenics, which formerly attempted to prevent people who were disabled and other minority groups from reproducing.

California, along with Washington, D.C., is one of ten states which has laws regarding assisted death. Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington also have similar laws

Proponents of the amended law claimed that the safeguards had become superfluous, time-consuming hurdles, and that other safeguards remained in the statute. Compassion & Choices, an organization that pushes for assisted suicide laws, published a 2017 survey that revealed 21% of people died or became too ill to proceed with the steps. Supporters of the bill stated that they were unaware of any abuse or coercion.

According to the lawsuit, those who may live indefinitely with competent medical care can be declared terminally ill and hence qualified for the medications if they would die within six months if such care were not available. This could include people with kidney diseases who refuse dialysis or diabetics who refuse insulin, according to the lawsuit.

It should not be easier for disabled people to die than to live. Our lives are valuable. Life with a disability can be lived, and disabled people shouldn’t be treated as a burden.


Shapiro, Joseph. “Disability Groups Say California’s Assisted Suicide Law Discriminates against Them.” NPR, NPR, 27 Apr. 2023,,Disability%20groups%20say%20California%27s%20assisted%20suicide%20law%20discriminates%20against%20them,and%20encourages%20discrimination%20against%20them. 

Thompson, Don. “Disability Rights Groups Sue to Overturn California’s Physician-Assisted Death Law.” KFF Health News, Kaiser Family Foundation , 27 Apr. 2023,

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