The fight back is on!

A case has been filed with the Californian District Court, challenging the legality of California’s assisted suicide laws.

Groups including Not Dead Yet and the Institute of Patient Rights have joined with individual complainants to launch a suit against the State of California, its governor, health department and more, arguing that the state’s assisted suicide regime discriminates against those with disabilities.

Those bringing the suit argue that the laws should be repealed to protect people with disabilities. 

They argue that if they were exercising rational judgment and the medical care appropriate to their condition, they would live. 

However, they are afraid that medical discrimination based on their disabilities place them at risk of depression and “choosing” an assisted suicide death that they would not want if they were in the right frame of mind.

The court documents provide an extraordinary picture of what happens to those with disabilities when assisted suicide is made law.

The plaintiffs label assisted suicide as “a deadly system that steers people with terminal disabilities away from necessary mental health care, medical care, and disability supports, and towards death by suicide under the guise of “mercy” and “dignity” in dying.”

They go on to argue that it violates disability rights law because the “entire protective network of services is withheld” from people with a terminal disability.

They illustrate the problem like this: 

“California agencies and officials are cynically “generous” in providing the freedom to choose death by suicide, but drastically restrict the provision of appropriate palliative, hospice, in-home care, and other supportive and protective services such that the actual supply and availability of alternatives to physician-assisted suicide is woefully inadequate to meet the demands of its aging, disabled, and chronically ill population.”

One of the plaintiffs, Lonnie Van Hook, is an African American man, a US Navy veteran and a quadriplegic. 

He has had both legs amputated and has been diagnosed with cancer. He needs help with basic life activities and lives with “substantial, and at times, excruciating pain.”

But he wants to live.

According to the court documents, he has experienced discrimination by medical providers and cannot obtain the required level of in-home support. 

He fears that he will become depressed and suicidal and that “medical providers who view his quality of life to be very low will steer him towards physician-assisted suicide.:

He wants these laws gone so that he is not pressured into “choosing” assisted suicide when in a depressed state.

Another plaintiff, Ingrid Tischer, who is also a quadriplegic due to scoliosis and muscular dystrophy, has been denied medical services on the basis of her disabilities. 

She too wants to live, but is scared that she will ask for assisted suicide in a moment of weakness when she is not receiving the supports she needs.

Californian officials should have a tough time convincing the court that assisted suicide is about “choice” and “autonomy” because – if it was – Lonnie and Ingrid and others like them would have the choice to live.