By Gudrun Schultz

SACRAMENTO, California, February 13, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Activists for the rights of the disabled are joining up with religious and conservative lobby groups to protest a proposed assisted-suicide bill in California.

Assembly Bill 651 would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.

“There are the folks who see it as a right-to-life issue, and there are the folks who see it as a right-to-death issue,” Teresa Favuzzi, director of the California Federation of Independent Living Centers, which opposes the bill, told the Sacramento Bee. “And for the disability community, it’s about the right to live, to be seen as valuable.”

Advocates for the disabled blame societal bias against the physically impaired, together with cost-cutting efforts in the health-care industry, for creating a favorable climate for the bill. With an assisted-suicide law in place, doctors who are under pressure to keep costs down and avoid expensive care may be more likely to prescribe lethal drugs to disabled patients.

Members of the disabled lobby groups have said they receive different treatment from the medical profession, they believe because of their physical disabilities. Doctors are quick to suggest that disabled patients sign “do not resuscitate” forms, some activists have said.

“We get reports from around the country that individuals with disabilities go into hospitals for some kind of treatment and hospital staff pressure them to sign (do not resuscitate) orders,” Paul Longmore, a history professor at San Francisco State University and an expert on disability studies, said to the Sacramento Bee. “That’s really serious discrimination.”

Advocates for the disabled are also concerned over drawing lines between chronic illness and terminal disease, saying it is often too difficult to say confidently that an illness is terminal.

“It is the experience of disability that a lot of us have defied medical science,” Navarro said.Â

Opponents of the bill fear that last month’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law will allow the bill easier passage.

See related LifeSiteNews coverage:
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  US Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Physician Assisted Suicide Law
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/jan/06011706.html