Second Thoughts MA is a grassroots group of 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 Latinx 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 disability euthanasia movie “Me before You,” and are now advocating against the assisted suicide bills S.1384 / H.2381 in the legislature.
Reject Assisted Suicide
Real “choice” belongs to insurers, whose business model is to delay or deny prescribed treatments, even if lifesaving. In Oregon, people can then be considered “terminal,” likewise if they can’t afford their treatment or if they stop maintenance treatment. Assisted suicide will always be the cheapest treatment. Your assisted suicide saves insurers money!
It is estimated that 1 in 10 Massachusetts older adults are abused every year, and quarantining under COVID-19 has only made the situation worse. Today, 40% of all COVID-19 deaths come from nursing homes. At home, 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.
Misdiagnosis and Mistaken Prognosis
These mistakes, yearly, put 6 million Americans at risk of severe harm. S.1384 / H.2381 could make that harm lethal. Thousands of Americans “graduate” hospice every year, and 12%-15% of people diagnosed with 6 months or fewer to live will outlive their diagnosis, sometimes by decades. Oregonian Jeanette Hall wrote the Boston Globe in 2011 that after a terminal diagnosis she sought assisted suicide, but her doctor persuaded her to try more treatment. “If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead,” she wrote. She has now lived more than 20 years post diagnosis.
The doctors who decide who is eligible for assisted suicide are the same ones who were perfectly comfortable proposing triage for older, ill and disabled people to make sure that the most able receive treatment first. State public health officials have continued to insist on using five-year expected survival rate as part of its Crisis Standards of Care. Ableism crossed with racism to end the life of Black quadriplegic Texan Michael Hickson, whose doctor justified not treating him for COVID-19 by saying “quality of life – he doesn’t have much of one.” Legalized assisted suicide will only worsen this medical discrimination.
The end of life concerns reported in Oregon and elsewhere all have to do with negative reactions to disability: distress and shame over dependence on others, lost abilities, loss of dignity, feeling like a burden and incontinence. We don’t need to die to have dignity. We champion meaning found in connections and interdependence.
If Massachusetts legalizes assisted suicide, some people’s lives will ended without their consent, through insurance denials, mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted, or even proposed, that can prevent this outcome which can never be undone once it is put into effect.
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