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I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. over New Years’.  I hadn’t been there in at least ten years.  One of the exhibits that made a big impression on me on previous visits was no longer there – an ambulance with the windows painted black.  The Nazis used ambulances like that to round-up disabled people and take them to the hospital to be killed without anybody seeing what they were doing.

Ten days ago, Oregon announced it would stop enforcing its residency requirement for assisted suicide.  Now, anyone in the United States can travel to Oregon to have the government there help them kill themselves.  I’ve been tracking the assisted suicide issue for a long time, and I can tell you it is well-documented one of the motivating factors among promoters of assisted suicide is prejudice against the disabled.  It’s also well-known there are lots of cases where relatives and beneficiaries pressure people into assisted suicide.  So you have to wonder how long it will be before disabled people from across the country are pressured to go to Oregon to be killed.

As for proof that prejudice against the disabled motivates assisted suicide supporters, a U.N. report two years ago noted “widespread prejudice and discrimination against persons with disabilities.”  It went on to say, “From a disability rights perspective, there is a grave concern that legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide could put at risk the lives of persons with disabilities. If assisted dying is made available for all persons with a health condition or impairment, regardless of whether they are terminally ill or not, a social assumption might follow that it is better to be dead than to live with a disability.”

Last month, disabled members of the House of Lords in the U.K. spoke out against an assisted suicide bill, firmly rejecting the notions they would be better off dead than disabled and their impairments make their lives less worth living.  A disability rights lawyer in Connecticut has been fighting for 40 years on behalf of disabled people she knows can live “productive and fulfilling lives,” lives assisted suicide would cut short.  Lives of the disabled are now being cut short in Austria, where assisted suicide became legal this year for people with debilitating conditions even though they are not terminally ill.

Austria, where Mozart was born.  It is suspected Mozart suffered from Tourette syndrome.  Imagine a world without Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, or without Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  Beethoven was deaf when he wrote it, and was actually going deaf while writing his first symphony.  Or a world where the light bulb, phonograph, or movies were never invented – Edison was also mostly deaf.  Henry Ford had a severe hearing loss, but he was still able to bring the automobile to the masses.  Van Gogh was mentally ill and suffered hallucinations and seizures, but that didn’t stop him from painting ‘The Starry Night’.  John Milton was blind when he wrote ‘Paradise Lost’.  I encountered blind lawyers, deaf lawyers, and lawyers in wheelchairs when I was practicing law.  The Austrian Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in World War I, but went on to a brilliant career as a concert pianist afterwards, playing specially commissioned works by Richard Strauss and other famous composers.  Imagine if he were living today and were being pressured by his fellow Austrians to end his life because he had a debilitating, non-terminal condition.

All of these stories about these and other less than perfectly formed people were brought to my attention by a wonderful disabled man, Mark Davis Pickup of Canada who, after many years in a motorized wheelchair, began to walk again.  Pickup recently wrote his mission in life is to help others bear their suffering and find hope.  Who are you to say that a man who has brought such beauty, grace, and joy to this world has no right to be here?  Or should be transported to Oregon in an ambulance with the windows painted black to be killed?  Read his blog at HumanLifeMatters.org and be enlightened.

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