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Read any news report, and you’ll notice people who murder disabled relatives often claim “hardship” to justify their crimes—what disability rights activists call the “mercy killing” defense. And commonly, the courts will cite the victim’s disability as a reason for leniency

“It really goes back to the misunderstanding about disability—that disability is this horrendous life experience nobody wants to have,” said Vilissa Thompson, a licensed master social worker and founder of Ramp Your Voice!, a disability rights consultation and advocacy organization. “When you have these stories of ‘mercy killing’ and the way they’re portrayed, it expounds on the ableism and the inaccurate understanding further.”

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