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Assisted Suicide Advocates, Disabled Clash at Conference

June 07, 1998| Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A national meeting of assisted suicide advocates was greeted Friday by disabled rights protesters who warned the movement would lead to the killing of the handicapped.

Police enforced an uneasy peace as about 30 members of Not Dead Yet--many in wheelchairs--sat in a hotel lobby to protest the Hemlock Society USA's national conference. No arrests were made.

Conference participants focused on Michigan's statewide ballot initiative that would allow physician-aided suicide for those with six months or less to live. It goes before voters in November.

The measure is similar to one that took effect last year in Oregon. On Friday, Atty. Gen. Janet Reno ruled that federal drug agents could not take action against doctors who help terminally ill patients die under the Oregon law.

"Basically, this is legalized killing of anybody with any type of disability," Tom Cagle said of the Michigan proposal as he sat in his motorized wheelchair.

Hemlock Executive Director Faye Girsh drew the ire of the disabled rights group when she decried the murder convictions of Robert Latimer in Canada and David Rodriguez in Louisiana for killing disabled family members. She also called for mercy killing laws that would set lesser penalties for those who act out of compassion when taking a person's life.

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