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3 Issues L. & Med. 141 (1987-1988)
Elizabeth Bouvia, Assisted Suicide and Social Prejudice

handle is hein.journals/ilmed3 and id is 161 raw text is: Elizabeth Bouvia,
Assisted Suicide and
Social Prejudice
Paul K. Longmore, Ph.D.*
Current discussion of assisted suicide is mainly focused on ter-
minally ill persons. In fact, the most prominent and vigorous suicide
rights activists seek legalization of assisted suicide not only for those
who are terminally ill, but also for an array of other socially devalued
and disadvantaged persons, most notably, people with disabilities and
older people. Explicitly or implicitly underlying their arguments, and
the arguments of many medical cost containment advocates as well, is
a generally unquestioning adoption and reinforcement of social prej-
udices against people with disabilities, the elderly, and even sick peo-
ple. This article concentrates on the historical and contemporary
experience of disabled people in relation to this issue.
A hidden but powerful component of any discussion about dis-
abled people must be brought to the surface and addressed: the usually
unacknowledged and unconscious fear and prejudice of many non-
handicapped persons toward people with disabilities. It involves bias
against those who look different and function differently. It reflects
hostility toward those who require and increasingly demand alter-
native physical and social arrangements to accommodate them and in
some cases need a larger share of societal resources. It stems from the
frightened belief that disability inevitably means loss of control, social
isolation, loss of an essential part of one's humanity, and the related
deep-seated anxiety that this could happen to me or someone close to
me. At times, these fears and prejudices burst out in violent words
and deeds, but usually, and perhaps even more dangerously, they are
*Program Specialist, Program in Disability and Society, University of Southern
California; B.A., Occidental College, 1968; M.A., Occidental College, 1971; Ph.D.,
Claremont Graduate School, 1984.

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