A group of disability advocacy groups are urging the Supreme Court of Georgia to uphold a state law making it a crime for anyone to publicly advertise or offer to help someone end their life.
Last week, the state Supreme Court heard a case against four members of the Final Exit Network who are accused of helping a 58-year-old man commit suicide after being diagnosed with cancer. The Final Exit Network argues that Georgia’s law does not actually prohibit the action of assisted suicide, but infringes on their freedom of speech rights.
The state legislature created the law in 1994 in response to “public actors” such as the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a nationally known figure who participated in more than 100 assisted suicides and publicized his actions as a compassionate means of ending an individual’s life.
Some disability advocacy groups, such as Georgia ADAPT and the Arc of Georgia, worry that the court could use the opportunity to expand the state’s assisted suicide legislation. For many people with disabilities, regulations, such as those in Oregon and Washington’s “Death with Dignity” laws, will inevitably fail to prevent abuses and discrimination against people with disabilities when physicians participate in the death of people.
“I am very concerned over the “assistance” that members of the Final Exit Network are eager to give to old, ill or disabled people who want to commit suicide,” wrote Eleonar Smith of Not Dead Yet of Georgia on the advocacy group’s blog. “Young, healthy people sometimes feel suicidal, and in those cases law– and society as a whole –rightly step in strongly for prevention. But FEN singles out disabled people as candidates for active help to kill themselves.”
Some advocates of assisted suicide/right to die laws have criticized <link no longer available> the Final Exit Network, including Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who died in June, as undermining the right-to-die movement because of its support for assisting suicide for people who are not terminally ill. The group is alleged to have assisted in more than 130 suicides.
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