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 the region who oppose the legalization of assisted suicide as a deadly form of discrimination against disabled people. We demand social justice against laws, policies, and media messages fueled by a “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. Since then, we have successfully advocated against three more assisted suicide bills, led a month-long campaign in 2016 against the hit disability euthanasia movie "Me before You,", and are now supporting the office of the Attorney General in its defense of the common law prohibition against assisted suicide in the lawsuit Kligler vs. Mass.

COMMITTEE HEARING TO BE HELD IN JUNE, 2019

Sometime in June, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health (JCPH) will hold a hearing on identical bills S.1208 and H.1926, the “End-Of-Life Options Act”, which are similar to the bills from the last two sessions.
The JCPH has been reorganized under new leadership along with many new members. Of the 17 committee members, 9 are sponsors of the bill. We will be visiting legislators in late May and early June

TALKING POINTS AGAINST ASSISTED SUICIDE

Mistakes. Every year, physician misdiagnosis impacts 12 million Americans, putting half at risk of severe harm. S.1208/H.1926 could make that harm lethal. 12%-15% of people diagnosed with 6 months or left to live will outlive their diagnosis, by months, years, or even decades. So if you receive your prescribed overdose from a doctor and their colleague who totally misdiagnosed you, no one could ever know that your life was taken from you.

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.

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. After the prescription is written and the drugs are dispensed from the pharmacy, there is no oversight. The bill doesn’t require an official witness at the death and denies the state authority to enforce or investigate. There is no enforceable requirement that people self administer. There are no penalties for abuse, because the bill immunizes everyone involved.

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.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the main motive for requesting assisted suicide boiled down to “existential distress.”

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. When 14-year-old Jerika Bolen made public her plan to commit suicide because of her disability, she was supported by local community (and media), which raised $36,000 for a ghoulish pre-suicide “prom.” People with disabilities demand equal suicide protection under the law!

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.


DISABILITY RIGHTS ARGUMENT IRREFUTABLE

  • Everyone's life is of equal value – the foundation of a democratic society.
  • Everyone deserves equal access to suicide prevention services.
  • Depression is treatable, death isn’t.
  • "Terminal illness" is all too often a tragic joke of a diagnosis. Misdiagnosis inevitably leads to the death of innocent people.
  • Elder and disability abuse are already rampant. Innocent people will be pushed into suicide by family and heirs who see them as a “burden” or source of a cash windfall.
  • Cost-cutting insurers will discourage, delay, and deny treatments that will benefit people. Innocent people will die for the bottom line.
  • People with disabilities – including people disabled by their illness – will be encouraged to commit suicide because society views dependence on other people as a fate worse than death.
  • Physical pain in dying people is a medical problem that effective palliative care can control.
  • Only one social group is calling for assisted suicide, led by privileged secular white professionals. This group should not make public health policy based on its own suicide problem. Black people, Latinos, and working-class people of all backgrounds oppose assisted suicide by big margins.
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Second Thoughts, P.O. Box 230396, Boston, MA 02123 (617) 250-8918
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