Second Thoughts - Disability Rights Advocates Against Assisted Suicide

Blog > Report: Meet Belmont

Submitted by Kate Ryan

On Tuesday, August 28th, John Kelly and I went to Belmont for a Meet Belmont event at the middle school. Belmont is a town of about 24,000 people located west of Boston.
     The event, which was held in the cafeteria, consisted of dozens of different groups talking to people about their cause or organization. The Boy Scouts, various churches, town councils, PTO’s, the public safety department, and the Audobon society are just a few of the groups represented. In a hallway at the back were the political groups; candidates for office and people arguing for or against ballot questions.
     Second Thoughts was placed near a group supporting medical marijuana, Question 3 on the ballot this November. We had an interesting discussion with the person staffing the table about the bill’s merits, but the majority of our time was spent talking to the public about Second Thoughts.
     We handed out our latest flyer and newsletter as we urged people to ‘Vote No On 2.’ It quickly became apparent that many people had no idea that there was opposition to the ballot question. Some people assumed that we were religious, anti-choice activists. We explained that we were not a religious group, we were a grassroots disability group. Several people told us of relatives who had died, both peacefully and in pain. Some people were quick to dismiss us, but others listened to what we had to say and seemed open to changing their minds.
     Here is a sampling of some of the questions we got, as well as the answers we gave.
     Are you against *all* assisted suicide, or just this bill in particular?
     Second Thoughts is focused only on Question 2, which is badly-written. The language is dangerously ambiguous and would easily lead to the abuse of people with disabilities and the elderly.
     Are you right-wing/religious/anti-choice?
     Second Thoughts is a progressive, non-religious group. We take no stance on abortion rights as that is not relevant to our cause.
     My mother/father/relative died in pain, and they would have welcomed assisted suicide!
     We are very sorry that they died in pain. It is a shame that they did not receive proper palliative care. With the right supports in place, there is no reason to be in pain at the end. People have other ways than assisted suicide to control their death.
     Such as what?
     Anyone has the right to refuse all food and drink, including feeding tubes and IV nutrition, and to have medication to relieve pain, even to the point of being sedated. In this way, the end will come probably within a week.
     When I go, I want to decide when and where, and it’s not right for you to try and stop me.
     No one is trying to stop anyone from making end-of-life choices. The problem with this assisted suicide proposal is that it will almost certainly ensure that some people will not get to decide. The “safeguards” are not strong enough to guarantee that people who make the request for assisted suicide actually want it, and are not just succumbing to their family’s pressure or depression. Depression and pain can be eased; death cannot.

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