Monday, 14 October 2013

Assaults on disabled under-reported, unpunished

A recent report on the pages of the Melbourne AGE newspaper backs up the concerns expressed by disability group Lives Worth Living to the Tasmanian Parliament over the soon-to-be-debated euthanasia bill.

Reporter, Farrah Tomazin, notes concerns from the Office of the Public Advocate's
spokesperson, John Chesterman, that, ''The level of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect suffered by at-risk adults, including people with cognitive impairments and mental ill health, is a serious social problem in Australia.''

The report added:
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has also raised concerns, and is confidentially surveying disabled people and their carers about the barriers faced when reporting crime.
Commissioner Kate Jenkins said about 100 people had been interviewed so far, and several recurring themes had emerged. For instance, some victims feared they would not be believed, or were worried about retribution from their carers. Others believed police would simply view them as an unreliable witness and therefore not pursue the case anyway.
As the Lives Worth Living letter to MPs rightly observes:
Disability is high in Tasmania and it troubles us that Tasmanians with disability may be at higher risk of these perverse outcomes from a euthanasia bill which goes broader than terminal illness.  Just under one in four Tasmanians (23%) reported a disability in 2009. This was higher than the national average of 19 per cent.
LWL also believes that there is a need for more considered national work on a range of issues at the health/disability interface and to harmonise these to avoid the risk of different human rights outcomes based on where people live.
There are, as they say, known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. The risk to vulnerable people of euthanasia legislation is a known-known; it cannot be ignored. It is a human rights issue precisely because it abandons vulnerable people and treats people unequally.

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