Second Thoughts - Disability Rights Advocates Against Assisted Suicide


photo of statue of the thinker We are disability rights advocates from Massachusetts, and from states nearby and far, who oppose the legalization of assisted suicide. We demand social justice against crimes and policies fueled by the “better dead than disabled” mindset. We organized in 2012 to help defeat assisted suicide Ballot Question 2. High turnout among black and Latino voters made victory certain. In 2013, we helped stop in committee assisted suicide Bill H. 1998. Just as our victories are made possible by the aid of regional and national disability advocates, we join our colleagues against current bills in New Jersey and Washington DC.
We are now organizing against H 1991, which is scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Public Health on October 27, 2015, in Rooms A1/A2 on the first floor of the MA State House.


Midday October 5, 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown legalized assisted suicide in California. Brown’s short message to the legislature reeks of false statements and pathetic narcissism. Diane Coleman, President and CEO of Not Dead Yet, exposes the fallacies and falsehoods at the Not Dead Yet website. That statement is reprinted in full below.

To reach his decision, Brown writes that he reflected on what he himself would want if he “were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain.” But dying in unmanaged pain is inexcusable and an indictment of the medical professionals or hospital in charge.

As leading national palliative care expert Dr. Ira Byock has said repeatedly, pain is controllable. In testimony before a Vermont Senate committee, he said:

”If I thought lethal prescriptions were necessary to alleviate suffering I would support them. In 34 years of practice, I have never abandoned a patient to die in uncontrolled pain and have never needed to hasten a patient’s death.”

Jerry Brown cynically regurgitates the fear-mongering of assisted suicide advocates.

”I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others”.

Instead of pledging to fix his state’s underfunded and under-doctored palliative care system, Gov. Brown pumps up fear of pain so he can promise “comfort” through a state-run program of doctor-prescribed poisoning. He brushes aside his obligations to the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of 39 million Californians, some of whom lose their lives every day under the harsh glare of social and healthcare inequality. Thinking only of himself and people like him, Brown manipulates fear to create the only healthcare “right” that poorer and despised groups of people have never asked for. To be killed with the blessings of the state.

NDY Denounces Governor’s Decision on Assisted Suicide Bill

Today, NDY was devastated and disgusted to learn that California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the assisted suicide bill that proponents rammed through a “special” session of the legislature convened to address the state’s Medicaid budget.

Governor Brown’s message accompanying his action states that he “carefully read” materials from opponents such as “those who champion disability rights,” but he nevertheless seems to have missed key facts.

For one, he says that “the crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life . . ..” Suicide is not a crime under California law (nor in other states), but assisted suicide proponents love to confuse people about that. The crime is when physicians and other third parties, such as the individual’s heirs, assist in suicide.

When confronted with that fact, proponents then often argue that old, ill and disabled people need help to commit suicide, which is another falsehood. As proponents promote on their website, any old, ill or disabled person can already commit suicide legally and peacefully in any state. So it is not a crime for a dying person to end his or her life peacefully, and Governor Brown’s stated “crux of the matter” is therefore mistaken.

Near the end of his short statement, Governor Brown said:

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain.”

This reveals that he didn’t really learn very much about the advances in palliative care when it comes to physical pain. At this point in time, palliative care physicians are able to relieve physical pain, even if that may in some instances require palliative sedation.. Some people may feel that they don’t want to be made unconscious to relieve pain, but that’s a psycho-social issue. The implication that assisted suicide is needed to relieve physical pain is mistaken.

The Governor’s stated reasons are based on fallacies and his action must be denounced. When held up alongside the factually based and well considered reasons that disability rights organizations oppose legalization of assisted suicide – mistaken prognoses, insurance denials, family coercion and abuse, among others – his failure to veto the bill amounts to a breach of his duty to protect all Californians, not just the privileged few who can count on high quality health care and the support of a loving family.


As always, the best resources are at the website for Not Dead Yet and the The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. See especially Not Dead Yet's Legislative Toolkit for information on how to advocate against legalization in state legislatures.

Important past stories on Second Thoughts/ Question 2 in 2012

  • Ben Matlin has an op-ed in the New York Times of November 1 entitled
"Suicide by Choice? Not so Fast"
  • Victoria Reggie Kennedy's article opposing Question 2 entitled "We are better than that" reprinted widely throughout Massachusetts.
  • Green-Rainbow party local leader Grace Ross examines the carelessness of Question 2 with lethal drugs in this article
  • Extensive coverage on Boston Public Radio Station WBUR:
All Things Considered

John Kelly versus Marcia Angell Part I on Radio Boston

John Kelly versus Marcia Angell,Part II on Morning Edition with Bob Oakes

Personal Side of the Story

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