Second Thoughts - Disability Rights Advocates Against Assisted Suicide

SECOND THOUGHTS MASSACHUSETTS

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. We are continuing to work against assisted suicide Bill H 1991, which continues to sit in the Joint Committee on Public Health. The committee received an extension until June 30, 2016. We are protesting the heavily marketed film "Me before You."

ACTION ALERT: PROTEST DISABILITY SNUFF FILM “ME BEFORE YOU”!

WHEN:   JUNE 3, 2016, ONE HOUR BEFORE A SHOWING OF "ME BEFORE YOU"

WHAT: PEACEFULLY DISTRIBUTE LEAFLETS (TO BE POSTED ON NDY WEBSITE)

WHY: TO OPPOSE ABLEISM & THE FILM’S MESSAGE THAT DISABLED PEOPLE ARE BETTER OFF DEAD (AND OTHERS ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT US)

SYNOPSIS

“Me Before You” is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to grossly misrepresent the lived experience of the majority of disabled people. In the film, a young man becomes disabled, falls in love with his ‘carer’ and they have an incredible 6 months together. Despite her opposition, however, our hero does the “honorable” thing by killing himself at the Swiss euthanasia clinic Dignitas – so she can move on and he is no longer a burden to her. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, “Me Before You” is little more than a disability snuff film, giving audiences the message that if you’re a disabled person, you’re better off dead.

WAYS YOU CAN PROTEST:

•     Two or more people can peacefully hand out a leaflet that will be available on the Not Dead Yet website
•     Send a press release or use NDY’s release (coming soon) to send to your local media.
•     Join the worldwide social media Thunderclap
•     Twitter using #MeBeforeYou #LiveBoldly #MeBeforeEuthanasia #MeBeforeAbleism
•     Share the articles linked below with friends and colleagues.

TALKING POINTS AGAINST ASSISTED SUICIDE

Insurance Denial. Poorer people, disabled people, and people of color have trouble getting ANY care. It’s no “choice” when your insurer denies you treatment but offers you suicide. Assisted suicide will always be the cheapest treatment. Your assisted suicide saves insurers money!

Abuse. Elder abuse and abuse of people with disabilities are epidemic. It is estimated that 1 in 10 Massachusetts older adults are abused every year, 90% of it by adult children and caregivers. Nothing in the law can stop an heir or abusive caregiver from steering someone towards assisted suicide, witnessing the request, picking up the lethal dose, and even administering the drug -- no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? The Oregon law has invited every sort of abuse.

Mistakes. Every year, physician misdiagnosis impacts 12 million Americans, putting half at risk of severe harm. H 1991 could make that harm lethal. So if you receive your prescribed overdose from a doctor and their colleague who totally misdiagnosed you, no one could ever know your life was cut short by months, years, or decades.

Depression. Massachusetts shouldn’t be telling depressed and suicidal people that suicide is a good solution to suffering. Oregon’s law doesn’t care about your depression as long as you have approved motives like “feeling like a burden” . The bill endangers bullied LGBTQ, autistic, intellectually disabled, and all young people who will be encouraged to see suicide as a reasonable response to suffering. “Suicide contagion” is real.

Race/Ethnicity & Social Class. As the voting results from Ballot Question 2 in 2012 show, assisted suicide pits wealthier, whiter districts against those with poorer people and people of color. For long-standing reasons, Blacks and Latinos oppose assisted suicide by 2-1 margins. The four most Latino cities in the Commonwealth – Lawrence, Chelsea, Holyoke, and Springfield – all voted strongly against Question 2. If assisted suicide was a benefit for everyone, it wouldn’t just be one social group using it. 97% of Oregon prescribed suicides have been non-Hispanic whites.

Hollow safeguards. Previous bills had a 15 day waiting period that proponents said protected patients. Now there is no waiting period. H 1991 requires involvement by professionals only until the lethal drugs are picked up from the pharmacy. The bill doesn’t require an official witness at the death and denies the state authority to enforce or investigate.

Unnecessary. Good palliative care makes dying people comfortable – uncontrolled pain is completely unacceptable. The bill’s advocates say it is all about pain, but the leading suicide motives are about distress over disability.

Disability prejudice “Better dead than disabled” is a belief that’s all too often acted on. Medical professionals already discourage treatment for us that is routine for everyone else. Will we get suicide prevention or suicide assistance?




ASSISTED SUICIDE LEGALIZED IN CA


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.

RESOURCES

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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