Not Dead Yet was founded on April 27,1996, shortly after Jack Kevorkian was acquitted in the assisted suicides of two women with non-terminal disabilities. In a 1997 Supreme Court rally, the outcry of 500 people withdisabilities chanting “Not Dead Yet” was heard around the world. Since then, eleven other national disability rights groups have joined NDY in opposing legalized assisted suicide, chapters have taken action in over 30 states, and we helped put Jack Kevorkian behind bars in 1999. In the 2003-2005 fight to save Terri Schiavo, twenty-five national disability groups joined Not Dead Yet in opposing her guardian’s right to starve and dehydrate her to death.
Since 1983, many people with disabilities have opposed the assisted suicide and euthanasia movement. Though often described as compassionate, legalized medical killing is really about a deadly double standard for people with severe disabilities, including both conditions that are labeled terminal and those that are not. Disability opposition to this ultimate form of discrimination has been ignored by most media and courts, but countless people with disabilities have already died before their time. For some, a disabled person’s suicidal cry for help was ignored, misinterpreted, or even exploited by the right-to-die movement. For others, death came at the request of a family member or other health care surrogate. This is not compassion, it’s contempt. People already have the right to refuse unwanted treatment, and suicide is not illegal. What we oppose is a public policy that singles out individuals for legalized killing based on their health status. This violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, and denies us the equal protection of the law. Some bioethicists have even started to argue that intellectually disabled people are not persons under the law. That hasn¹t happened since slavery was legal.Legalized medical killing is not a new human right, it’s a new professional immunity. It would allow health professionals to decide which of us are “eligible” for this service, and exempt them from accountability for their decisions. Killing is not just another medical treatment option, and it must not be made any part of routine health care. In these days of cost cutting and managed care, we don’t trust the health care system, and neither should you.People with disabilities have an opportunity to lead society from the isolation and despair of today into a renewed recognition of belonging and community for all. The idea that people with disabilities are not worthy of society’s acceptance or resources is not new. We see this form of hatred throughout history, often masked as benevolence. But for the first time in history, people with disabilities are organizing our community to fight back, to demand the equal protection of the law.
7521 Madison St
Forest Park, IL 60130
Phone: 708-209-1500 Fax: 708-209-1735