- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2012


“PBS NewsHour” recently did a segment on the death of Tony Nicklinson, a severely disabled man who had unsuccessfully campaigned for the legalization of assisted suicide in Britain. The story lionized Nicklinson’s life, with scarcely a mention that assisted suicide is deeply controversial — especially among people with disabilities.

Some disabled people consider assisted suicide a vindication of their personal autonomy. Many others, however, fear it is the next step in a movement to undermine the value of their lives: They are offered the option to kill themselves because, at bottom, society considers their lives not worth living.

I do not question PBS’ right to run the story. I do not even object to it taking a position, albeit indirectly, on the issue (though I admittedly find its oft-repeated claim of objectivity tedious, if not cynical). What I as a disabled person resent is that my tax dollars are spent on such programming. Like black Americans who challenged federal funding of segregation 50 years ago, I object to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting using public funds to finance programming with viewpoints premised on the unarticulated assumption that disabled people are only dignified when dead.


Professor emeritus

Temple University School of Law

Doylestown, Pa.



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