Second Thoughts - Disability Rights Advocates Against Assisted Suicide

State House Testimony

Second Thoughts members wait to testify.
10 individuals from Second Thoughts and several people from other organizations provided powerful testimony at the March 6 Judicial Hearing against H. 3884.

Senator John Rogers of Norwood:
"I think we as a society, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, using our intellect and our ingenuity and combined energies, we define ourselves not by allowing our citizens to die with dignity but by empowering our citizens to live with dignity while they're dying. And in that distinction, we define ourselves as a great, humane society. The only thing worth killing is this bill. And I hope you do so."
State Representative Keiko Orrall is also against the bill.

Several doctors also spoke against the bill, including Henry Dorkin, Director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Children's Hospital. He talked about "the doctor's obligation to let no one die hungry, thirsty, short of breath, in pain, or afraid."

Other opponents included the Massachusetts Hospice and Paliative Care Federation.

CLICK HERE to see a photo gallery of the day.

The Statehouse News covered the event, as reprinted from Channel 22 in Springfield: statehouse-news-mar06-2012.pdf or statehouse-news-mar06-2012.txt.

Testimony

Some of the testimony was videotaped and is posted on Alliance Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide. Please watch!

Karen Schneiderman, John Kelly, and Eileen Feldman testify.

John Kelly, Director of Second Thoughts, focused on:

"the issue of self-determination, on which hinges the proponents' argument for the law.

But the fact is that we already have self determination, as we can refuse any and all lifesaving treatment. Gone are the days of unnecessary invasive treatments. People can have an advance directive, they can choose someone to make decisions if they can't. And you have the right to pain relief, all the way up to palliative sedation, which in effect lets you die in your sleep. For these reasons, the law is unnecessary.

This law restricts choice as it jeopardizes lives. Misdiagnosis has always impacted self-determination, but this law makes misdiagnosis fatal."

Read John Kelly's full testimony: kelly-mar-6-2012.pdf or kelly-mar-6-2012.txt

Michael Muehe testifies.
Michael Muehe, Director of the Disabilities Commission in Cambridge, gave his personal thoughts on the bill as a:
"double standard that is deadly to people with disabilities. For most people in our society, someone attempting to commit suicide is interpreted by our society as "a cry for help." Actually committing suicide is seen as an irrational act, a preventable tragedy. Suicide prevention programs have been established in Massachusetts and nationwide to try to help stop individuals from committing suicide."..."But laws that establish a mechanism for physician-assisted suicide communicate exactly the opposite to specific subset of our society - people with disabilities, people with terminal illness, and seniors."
Read Michael Muehe's full testimony: muehe-mar-6-2012.pdf or muehe-mar-6-2012.txt

Eileen Feldman has personal experience with multiple terminal misdiagnoses. Because of these mistakes as well as the lack of safeguards, Eileen testified:
"So it's not a stretch for me to testify that the arts of diagnosis and of prognosis are not so reliable. We need our laws to fully support dignity and quality-of-life choices for all Massachusetts residents -- irregardless of medical contingencies. With this bill, and in our culture of a greedy profit-driven medical system, it is easier for a low-income Massachusetts resident to doctor-shop for a lethal dose than it currently is, for that same patient, to get a weekly 90-minute massage paid for."
Read Eileen Feldman's full testimony: feldman-mar-6-2012.pdf or feldman-mar-6-2012.txt

Denise Karuth testifies.
Denise Karuth, former Executive Director of Boston Self Help Center is concerned about abuse, neglect, poverty and coercion.
"When I first became severely disabled my brother, who loves me dearly, asked me, “Why don’t you just kill yourself and get it over with?” He was convinced that my disability was a fate worse than death. ...
I and other disability rights activists are gravely concerned that legalizing assisted suicide will greatly add to a deadly mix of factors that already lead people who are terminally ill to feel that it is time for them to die. These factors include poverty, inadequate health insurance, and peoples’ concern that they are burdening their caregivers and families—this is especially true for elders who are being abused, neglected, or coerced.
Read Denise Karuth's full testimony: karuth-mar-6-2012.pdf or karuth-mar-6-2012.txt

Kevin Wreghitt is an individual with disabilities from the North Shore who holds a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling. Mr. Wreghitt submitted his testimony in writing in April of 2012. You can read his testimony at: kevinwreghitttestimony.doc
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