Second Thoughts - Disability Rights Advocates Against Assisted Suicide

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The Climb Organization Inc.
7 Terry Drive * Morristown * New Jersey * 07960

Dear Senator,

My name is Dawn Teresa Parkot and I am the President and Founder of The Climb Organization, Inc. One of our aspirations is to educate the world on disabled life issues. I would like to discuss with you the “Death with Dignity” Bill.

I realize that a lot of people think that individuals with disabilities aren’t usually terminally ill; however the terminally ill are pretty much always disabled. This is one of several reasons that a point of view from someone who has severe disabilities may offer insights into this complicated matter. Additionally, I have studied and followed this bill, since its inception.

Many people view assisted suicide as simply bringing relief, by alleviating pain and suffering, by death, but the American Medical Association, and every state association of physicians have declared assisted suicide unethical.

Those who wrote and modified this bill are telling people the “Death with Dignity” Bill is fully safe for patients. This is completely untrue. In the act, there is a requirement that the patient make an oral request followed by a written request for the deadly medication. They must reiterate the oral request to the patient’s attending physician at least 15 days after making the initial oral request.

At the time the patient makes a second oral request, the attending physician shall offer the patient an opportunity to rescind the request." However, the bill defines "capable" as having the capacity to make health care decisions and to communicate them to a health care professional, including communication through persons familiar with the patient’s manner of communicating if those persons are available.

Simply, legislation makes it possible for someone to speak for the person if they are familiar with the person's manner of communicating. As someone who is disabled and unable to speak without communication aids, this makes this bill extremely frightening to somebody with a significant speech disability.
Legalizing this bill raises the potential for a profoundly dangerous situation.

Abuse of the elderly and disabled is a growing problem, making coercion virtually impossible to prove or stop. Who can confirm that the assisted suicide choice was freely made when the only witness is dead? With the lack of witnesses present, someone else can administer the lethal drug without the patient’s consent. Someone could use an alternate method, such as suffocation. Who would know? The mere presence of a lethal drug request would provide an alibi. Without witnesses, the patient’s control over the “time, place and manner” of his or her death, isn’t guaranteed.

Demands to reduce healthcare costs in the current environment make this the most dangerous time to add physician-prescribed assisted suicide as “treatment”. Further, the bill does not state that “only” the patient may administer the drug; it provides that the patient “self-administer” the dose. The word “self-administer” does not mean that administration will necessarily be by the patient. “Self-administer” means a capable patient’s action of ingesting medication to end his or her life.” That means someone else putting the pills in the patient’s mouth qualifies as “self-administration.” Someone else putting the drug in a feeding tube or IV nutrition bag also would qualify.

I am very worried, when the accuracy of a terminal prognosis determines whether someone gets suicide assistance rather than suicide prevention. Patients with terminal or serious illnesses change their minds. When they don’t feel well, they may want to die. When feeling better, they want to live. Patients suffering from depression may request death, not knowing that their quality of life can be improved with proper treatment.

Furthermore, legalizing physician-assisted suicide would bring subtle and not-so-subtle pressure to bear on terminally ill patients who fear their illness is physically, emotionally, or financially burdensome to families or caretakers. The legal option to commit suicide with a physician's help would be perceived as an obligation by many terminally ill patients concerned about being a burden to loved ones — patients who might not otherwise have considered suicide at all.

The bill is not necessarily about dignity or choice. This act could enable people to pressure others to an early death or cause it. While those who wrote and modified this bill point to the alleged safeguards against its abuse, there is no way they can assure that the safeguards will be observed. There is no real means of assuring that those who participate in the process follow all the provisions.

The legislation also could encourage patients with years to live to give up hope. Any law or bill that facilitates or assists suicide diminishes the value of life. This bill exempts those who participate in the process of helping a person to kill themselves from any of the sanctions previously provided under the law. I firmly believe that assisted suicide is homicide and those who assist, regardless of their intentions, are guilty of taking a life, just as surely as if they participated in a state sanctioned execution. Let’s call this bill what it is, state sanctioned execution of people who need and deserve our prayers and our love and our service to finally find their peace. Please vote NO on the “Death with Dignity” Bill.

Dawn Teresa Parkot – President
The Climb Organization, Inc.

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