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Poll Suggest Many Want "Right to Die", But With Protections For People With Disabilities
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 21, 2003

LONDON, ENGLAND--The results of a non-scientific poll suggest that people in the United Kingdom want new laws to make it a "right to die", but that they want there to be provisions in place to protect people with disabilities.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) released the results of their informal survey Monday.

Sixty-three percent of those who participated in the on-line poll thought euthanasia or assisted suicide should be made legal. But 82 percent of those responding said people with disabilities need a stronger "right to live". They indicated that more needed to be done to protect against discrimination in the use of "do not resuscitate" notices and withholding of necessary treatment.

"The current debate about euthanasia has made some terrible assumptions about the quality of disabled people's lives," said Liz Sayce, director of policy and communications at the DRC, in a press statement.

"It has rarely included the voices of disabled people and their right to live and we must see the balance redressed."

The survey was conducted through DRC's website. Ninety-one of the 162 who were surveyed claimed to have a disability, while 69 did not, and two did not reply.

The results were published on the day the DRC was to hold a public debate on ‘The Right to Live, the Right to Die.’ The forum was to examine the law and who has the right to decide whether a person lives or dies.

The statement also referred to a report by Disability Awareness in Action which found that many people have been denied medical treatment or basic personal care because of their disability. For instance, a 9-year-old girl was refused a life-saving heart transplant because of her Down syndrome despite an announcement by Great Ormond Street Hospital that it considered children with the syndrome to be suitable candidates for transplants.

The BBC noted other research has found that people with learning disabilities have a lower life expectancy from cancer and much lower rates of screening. Also, the Department of Health reported that uptake for cervical screening for women with learning disabilities was 20 percent compared with a figure of 85 percent for the general population.

Related:
"Euthanasia Special Report" (BBC News)
Disability Rights Commission

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