Wrongful death statutes discriminate

This article is excerpted from ENVOY, December 1993.

The Washington Protection and Advocacy System is backing a measure to amend the State’s wrongful death statutes.  WPAS believes the current law disproportionately excludes people with disabilities from the protection it offers.

According to attorney Michael McCarthy, author of the proposed amendments and a WPAS Board member, the wrongful death statutes “effectively deny a civil remedy for the deaths of a large number of Washington’s citizens by excluding some actions based in part on what the deceased person was expected to earn.”

There is a cause of action arising from the wrongful deaths of every Washington citizen, except those who are single adults, have no children or dependent parents or siblings, and cannot prove that they do not now or will not someday earn more than they spend.  Clearly, people with disabilities are disproportionately represented in this exclusion.

According to McCarthy, the proposed amendments have “three worthy objectives.  First, they will help to prevent abuse and neglect in the excluded class.  Second, the amendments constitute an unequivocal commitment to the sanctity of all human life, regardless of earning power.  Third, the amendments serve an important and distinctly American function by granting to every citizen the opportunity to be heard in a public forum, to vindicate his/her rights, to prove her/his worth and to be recognized by fellow citizens.”


*Editor's Note: Disability Rights Washington was formerly known as Washington Protection and Advocacy System.

ENVOY Credits

ENVOY Editorial Staff:  Nicole Elger, Gillian Maguire, Mark Stroh
ENVOY Staff Contributors:  Laura Allen, Nicole Elger, John Macdonald, Gillian Maguire, Elizabeth Schwieterman , Michael Smith, Elizabeth Stanhope, Mark Stroh

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