WASHINGTON – Disabled people asked for help March 7 in protecting what one called their “imperfect lives” from assisted suicide.

They addressed a session of a two-day international conference on assisted suicide, jointly sponsored by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, and the Center for Jewish and Christian Values.

“The message of the current pro-assisted suicide social climate is that it is more convenient and more economical to offer assisted suicide rather than supports that value the lives of people with disabilities,” said Lisa K. Gigliotti, a Michigan lawyer who has rheumatoid arthritis and a potentially fatal neuromuscular disease.

Mark Pickup, a Canadian with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, said a recent case in his country of a farmer who killed his 12-year-old handicapped daughter “brought to the surface a seething societal hostility toward imperfect human life.”

Although an autopsy showed that the girl, Tracy Latimer, had no life-threatening disease, Robert Latimer was convicted only of second-degree murder in the death and he received tens of thousands of dollars in donations for legal fees, Pickup said.

“This revelation of widespread support for the killing of a handicapped child was interpreted by the disabled community as a slap across the face by both the justice system and our fellow able-bodied citizens,” he added.