The suicide rate in Virginia, 13.2 per every 100,000 residents in 2016, increased an alarming 17.4 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So last year, the General Assembly passed a bill requiring the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to come up with new suicide prevention policies. In March, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill requiring the department to report annually on the success of those measures.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s Joint Commission on Health Care was considering a proposal by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, to legalize physician-assisted suicide, which advocates are calling by the more sanitized name, Medical Aid-in-Dying. Whatever it’s called, this practice would allow physicians to legally prescribe lethal doses of medication to patients who no longer desire to live.
The irony of such contradictory efforts in several states has not been lost on a national grassroots disability rights group, Not Dead Yet, which bluntly pointed out that “legalized assisted suicide sets up a double standard: some people get suicide prevention while others get suicide assistance, and the difference between the two groups is the health status of the individual. This is blatant discrimination and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”