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Testimony of Elaine M. Kolb
Before the New Jersey State Senate
Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee
December 15, 2014

Chairman Vitale, Members of the Committee:

My name is Elaine M. Kolb, member of Not Dead Yet & Second Thoughts Connecticut, and I am testifying against the assisted suicide bill, S382.

Thirty-eight years ago, I was stabbed in the back, resulting in a spinal cord injury. Now, at 65, I am also officially old.

Sixteen years ago, at this time, my partner for eleven years, Patti Deak, was in the hospital. Weakened by chronic bronchitis, asthma, scoliosis, and a life-long neuro-muscular disease, she developed pneumonia and both of her lungs collapsed.

Growing up with a disability, which relentlessly became more profound, Patti was told that she should expect to die young. She endured the insults & injuries of a culture which did not recognize her as a full citizen. Her whole life was a struggle for needed equipment, treatments, & services. Remember, it was not until 1975, with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act, that public schools were required to even begin to attempt to include and teach children with disabilities.

Prejudice against people with disabilities of all ages continues to be extreme, sometimes deadly. Among those of us with long-term, visible disabilities, we share some terrifyingly, common horror stories. Family, friends, even perfect strangers will say something like, "Oh, I could NEVER be as strong & brave as you are. If that happened to ME, I'd rather be dead." Not a complement. We experience insults, along with every kind of injury.

Patti Deak loved her life & our life together. So, when both lungs collapsed in December 1998, she decided that she was willing to go on a ventilator. Then we had to fight to get to pulmonary rehab at Gaylord Hospital, so she could come home. Sadly, she had further complications & went on hospice care. She died on March 10, 1999. She was forty. Patti Deak lived & died with dignity, with multiple disabilities, using a power wheelchair, hospital bed, hoyer lift, hearing aids, and a ventilator.

When some non-disabled folks talk about "death with dignity", they actually mean "death before disability" or "death before Depends". With cut-backs in so many essential services, the message behind assisted suicide is that death is cost-effective. For those of us in danger of being denied what we need to live, "Compassion & Choice" feels more like "Contempt & Coercion." We want to live with dignity and the recognition that our lives are beautiful & valuable & meaningful, just as we are.

Extend palliative care, hospice services, and end-of-life counseling.

PLEASE do NOT pass assisted suicide in any form, including S382..

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