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Actions News

Action Needed! Oppose Bills S 1384 / H 2381

June 6, 2022

Oppose S.1384/H.2381, which would legalize assisted suicide and risk the lives of disabled people. Use this FORM to Protect Disabled Lives to send the message to the MA Joint Committee on Health Care Financing that these bills must not pass! To help us alert more people to this issue and encourage them to take action, please use our Social Media Action Guide (docx)

From John B. Kelly, Director of Second Thoughts, MA

Hello disability rights advocates and allies!

I wish I could write each of you individually, to encourage you to send the linked letter to the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, to urge the committee to REJECT assisted suicide bills S.1384/H.2381 as a threat to the lives of disabled people, including people disabled by their serious illness.

Here is the link which will enable you to send the letter to every committee member. At the bottom of the letter, you can make your own personal message.

And attached is an Action Toolkit (docx) to using social media, complete with preprinted messages, to get the point across the assisted suicide is too dangerous for disabled people! Letter and Action Guide developed by newly hired Assistant Director/Policy Analyst Jules Good (they/them).

Thanks so much!

John

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Hearings Information MA News

Statement against S.1384 by John B. Kelly

Opponents for legalized assisted suicide held a virtual legislative briefing on Tuesday, May 10, which prompted news outlets to seek a statement from Second Thoughts director John Kelly.

Download John Kelly’s statement against S.1384, or scroll down to read.

Over the last 15 years, the Mass legislature and, in 2012, the people of the state, have wisely rejected the legalization of assisted suicide as too dangerous. The legislature should likewise reject S1384, which despite its name does not provide dying people “end-of-life options.”

The tragic reality is that under legalized assisted suicide, some people’s lives will be ended without their true consent, through misdiagnosis, persuasion, coercion and abuse, insurance denials and depression. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.

NPR reported five years ago that up to 20% of people who enter hospice outlive their six months prognosis. In Oregon, 4% of people who enter the assisted suicide program are alive at the end of six months. The difference between 4% and 20% is the percent of people and their families who may have lost months, years, and in some cases decades of meaningful life.

There is no way to contain eligibility to a narrow set of people. Anorexia nervosa and diabetes now qualify as terminal conditions in other states. Disabled people like me are eligible in Canada, and some predict disabled people will be eligible here.

Proponents always talk about pain and suffering, but the end-of-life concerns in Oregon show that people are upset about depending on other people and are feeling like a burden.

Just as many people disqualify me from full humanity because of my disability, some people disqualify themselves and are disqualified by others when they need help.

The state of Massachusetts must not sponsor people’s suicides because other people consider them a burden, because they believe they are dying when they are not, and because they have been denied the treatment and support services that would keep them alive.

NPR – Nearly 1 in 5 hospice patients discharged while still alive.

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Actions

MA Legislators Shouldn’t Take the “Bait and Switch” on Assisted Suicide

Download this new information from the Patients Rights Action Fund (No Suicide MA.pdf) to use when talking to legislators and constituents.

Assisted suicide proponents in Massachusetts are using bait to convince legislators to pass S.1384/H. 2381 to legalize assisted suicide by claiming there are sufficient “safeguards” to protect patients from coercion and abuse. But, once the bait is taken and the law is passed, proponents switch to stripping away the “safeguards” just a few years later.

  • A challenge filed in federal court in California would eliminate the requirement that the lethal drugs be self-administered which would result in euthanasia. With lethal injection available in the home, vulnerable people would be at even greater risk of being killed with-out their consent.
  • Proponents successfully removed by court settlement the requirement in Oregon that only residents of the state be eligible for lethal drugs by claiming it is unconstitutional. Now, they are essentially asking Massachusetts legislators to support a bill with an unconstitu-tional residency requirement and are urging other legal states to remove their residency requirements.
  • In Colorado, at least two patients in their early 30s with anorexia nervosa received lethal assisted suicide drugs. In Oregon, at least one patient with anorexia nervosa received the drugs. This is a broad expansion into mental illness, even though neither state through their elected officials or by public vote anticipated that the assisted suicide laws they passed would allow such expansion.
  • The Massachusetts bills require a 15-day waiting period as did bills from other legal states. Since enacting assisted suicide laws, Oregon and California have drastically reduced their waiting periods to mere hours and Hawaii is following suit. The “safeguard” of a legitimate waiting period to allow patients to fully comprehend the enormity of the decision to end their lives is now claimed to be a “barrier”.
  • Physicians are often wrong in their prognoses that patients have only six months to live. In New Mexico, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants are allowed to prescribe lethal drugs, even though Medicare prohibits them from qualifying patients for hospice which is also based on a six-month prognosis. Washington and Hawaii are two legal states now pro-posing to allow these less-qualified medical professionals to have prescription authority.
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Information

Shavelson v. California Department of Health Care Services

DREDF Opposes Elimination of Fundamental Protections in California’s End of Life Options Act

“In a pending legal case, Shavelson v. California Department of Health Care Services, a terminally ill plaintiff contends the self-administration requirement of California’s End of Life Options Act (ELOA) violates existing anti-discrimination laws on the basis of disability. While the plaintiff is eligible for physician assisted suicide and has the ability to self-administer lethal medication at present, they’d prefer to utilize the option later in the dying process, when self-administration is no longer possible.

The lawsuit seeks to pressure California into eliminating the state’s most essential safeguard and, in doing do, sanction a dangerous practice not allowed in any of the state’s where assisted suicide is legal. Today, District Judge Vince Chhabria heard arguments in the case, which the State of California has moved to dismiss. DREDF supports the motion and is actively monitoring the case.

Here’s why disability rights advocates strongly oppose granting the waiver requested by the plaintiff.

Assisted suicide doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It must be considered against the backdrop of the United States’ tragic history of state-sanctioned discrimination against people with disabilities and chronic illnesses in health care settings. This sordid history includes nonconsensual experimentation, forced sterilization, the denial of essential medical care based on biased and/or inaccurate quality of their life assessments, issuing of “Do Not Resuscitate” orders without patient consent, and most recently, employing COVID crisis standards of care and health care rationing systems that explicitly, openly devalue disabled lives.

This long, violent history of discrimination is the result of common, largely unspoken biases in society and in the medical profession that assume (without evidence) that the quality of life and inherent worth of people with disabilities is beneath that of their non-disabled peers. Countless studies have consistently revealed the disturbing revelation that health care providers hold negative views of people with disabilities that too frequently translates in failures to equitably protect, serve, or support disabled people.

In 2019, the National Council on Disability – an independent federal agency – released a series of reports exploring how people with disabilities are harmed by these biases in several critical areas of health care delivery including organ transplantation, assisted suicide and determinations of medical futility. The report details a deadly double standard in providing suicide prevention services or support where disability communities are concerned. Under grave circumstances like these, existing safeguards in California’s law must be preserved, especially when other key safeguards in ELOA have already been rolled back.

When it enacted ELOA in 2016, California’s legislature rightfully drew a clear line between assisted suicide and euthanasia in an attempt to preserve the integrity of unqualified consent inherent in the self-administration requirement. Or so they claimed at the time.

Yet in October 2021, California enacted Senate Bill 380, eliminating the very protections the Legislature championed only a few years before, including (1) reducing mandatory 15-day waiting periods between requests for assisted suicide drugs to 48 hours; and (2) eliminating the requirement that an individual affirm their decision before lethal drugs are administered. These requirements were critical guardrails against erroneous or coerced requests for assisted suicide; without them, the risks of abuse and coercion to people with disabilities increase exponentially.

Requiring California to cross that line as the plaintiff in Shavelson seeks to do would compromise the essential nature of the end-of-life program the state created and increases existing threats to the civil rights, and the very lives, of profoundly oppressed and already marginalized communities.

In short, the state’s self-administration requirement reflects a sound legislative judgment that no person’s life should be ended unless they are fully committed to ending it – something that can never be truly clear unless they perform the act themselves. While not ideal, this affirms and secures an essential moral and legislative line between assisted suicide and euthanasia. California’s requirement that individuals must self-administer a lethal prescription remains a necessary barrier to coercion and abuse that must, in good conscience, remain.”

NDY, DREDF and United Spinal Discuss Shavelson Euthanasia Case at Press Briefing

Disability advocacy organizations NDY, DREDF and United Spinal partnered with the Patients Rights Action Fund (PRAF) to hold a press briefing on the Shavelson v. CA Department of Health Care Services case heard on April 14 in the federal District Court of Northern California. Video of the press briefing is available on PRAF’s Facebook page.

Categories
Actions

Action Needed on S 1384!

Friday, March 25, 2022

The assisted suicide bill, S.1384 (An Act relative to end of life options), moved to the Health Care Financing Committee yesterday.   The clock now starts ticking with the committee having 30 days to process the bill.   However, as we know, the deadline can be extended.   If there is no extension and no action by the committee, the bill is dead in 30 days.

Please contact Health Care Financing Committee members to urge them to vote against the bill.   We are working on individual meetings with the Chairs and members. 

Committee members are found here:   https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/J24

Categories
History

Study on Physician Perceptions

Physicians’ Perceptions Of People With Disability And Their Health Care

by Lisa I. Iezzoni, Sowmya R. Rao, Julie Ressalam, Dragana Bolcic-Jankovic, Nicole D. Agaronnik, Karen Donelan, Tara Lagu, and Eric G. Campbell on February 1, 2021

Published in Health Affairs

“In [a] survey of 714 practicing US physicians nationwide, 82.4 percent reported that people with significant disability have worse quality of life than nondisabled people. . . . [T]hese findings about physicians’ perceptions of this population raise questions about ensuring equitable care to people with disability. Potentially biased views among physicians could contribute to persistent health care disparities affecting people with disability.”

Categories
News

Is “Death with Dignity” Really Possible?

November 30, 2021 by Ronald W. Pies, MD for the Psychiatric Times.

Has this slogan crowded out the importance of life with dignity?

…”over the past several decades, death with dignity has become a kind of battle cry. Owing to the lobbying and proselytizing efforts of groups promoting physician-assisted suicide—euphemistically called, “medical aid in dying”—the phrase, death with dignity, has become nearly synonymous with the deliberate ingestion of lethal drugs, prescribed for people with terminal illnesses.2 In the marketplace of ideas, other modes of dignity in dying—and more importantly, in living—have been crowded out.”

Categories
Hearings News

H2381 – Poole Testimony Oct 1, 2021

Download Poole Testimony H2381 2021-10-01.pdf or read below.

My name is Ruthie Poole, and I am the president of M-POWER, a statewide group made up of people with lived experience of mental health diagnosis, trauma, and addiction.

As people with psychiatric disabilities, M-POWER members feel passionately about the right to self-determination. However, that is not what this bill is about.

It is not uncommon for people with disabilities and elders who may not be physically well to feel like they’re a burden on their families. Prescribing doctors in Oregon last year reported that more than half of program suicides felt like a burden on family, friends, or caregivers. Sadly, if physician assisted suicide were to become law in Massachusetts, some people may be coerced, either subtly or more obviously, by their families to agree to this.

The bills have a provision requiring people requesting assisted suicide to have a counseling appointment to determine that the person “is capable and not suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment.”

Historically, people with psychiatric diagnoses have been subjected to all forms of legal and extra-legal coercion, often abetted by these same professionals. Gatekeeping professionals continue to underestimate our capabilities and block us from living our own lives. Based on these experiences, we cannot trust that counselors will have our best interests in mind when evaluating our motives for requesting assisted suicide.

At the same time, people in the midst of a severe depression can usually present as “unimpaired,” especially in a single meeting with an unknown counselor.

Those of us in M-POWER know that depression is insidious. We know that depression does impair judgment. As a therapist once told me, depression does not cause black and white thinking; it causes black and blacker thinking. Absolute hopelessness and seeing no way out are common feelings for those of us who have experienced severe depression. Personally, as someone who has been suicidal in the past, I can relate to the desire for “a painless and easy way out.” However, depression is treatable and reversible. Suicide is not.

We applaud the Joint Committee on Public Health and legislators who have worked to expand funding for suicide prevention efforts. Passing this bill would be a slap in the face of those efforts. Suicide contagion is real. Any assisted suicide program will send the message to people in mental distress – old, young, physically ill or not – that suicide is a reasonable answer to life’s problems.  It isn’t.

We urge you to give this bill an “ought not to pass.”

Thank you.

Categories
Hearings News

H2381 – Daly Testimony Oct 1, 2021

Download Daly Testimony H2381 2021-10-01.pdf or read below.

Eighteen months ago, if you’d asked me if I supported a doctor assisted suicide bill I would have answered, sure, why not, choice is good. And I would have believed that I could control whether I opt in or not. 

Since then, I’ve put two and two together and found that an assisted suicide bill does not add up to a choice I can live with. In fact, if the bill is passed, and the trend continues, the odds of my dying prematurely and without my consent are surprisingly high. 

My disability puts me into a category of people who are systematically marginalized by the healthcare system. I share this realm with many poor, elderly, and people of color. I experience inequities in the form of inaccessible exam tables, mammography equipment and weight scales, and discriminatory practices such as when I broke my femur my doctor told me he wouldn’t bother operating because “I don’t walk anymore”; when I didn’t get weighed at my oncologist’s office even though there was a big sign posted on the office wall that read “All patients must be weighed”; I also wasn’t weighed before receiving nine months of chemotherapy even though dosage is determined partially by a patient’s weight. Is this in line with the Hippocratic oath? Take a look at our Crisis Standards of Care to see what’s on the minds of our healthcare industry today.

What does it say when Mass General Hospital, the number 5 rated hospital in the country, after 20 years is still not fully ADA compliant? What does it say about our American culture when it fails to soothe our fears of being left out, not considered, essentially not worth the trouble? 

People have always been afraid of disability and the “perceived” loss of dignity that comes with it. In fact, loss of dignity polls as the number one reason for wanting assisted suicide legalized. If loss of dignity means having to lean on a family member or a home health care worker for eating, bathing, and toileting, if it means being inconvenienced and ashamed by incontinence or memory loss, well then at least all of humanity is in the same boat and we can look forward to losing our dignity together because the very act of living means we are aging, our bodies are breaking down and at some point we will be in the need of care from others. 

You could say we are all becoming more disabled with each passing day. Maybe we should think about normalizing aging and disability by reevaluating the meaning of the term “loss of dignity.” We could embrace those in need of care by extending access to health and palliative care. We could focus in on easing the inevitability of becoming frail in order to rid people of their guilt of being a burden so they won’t conclude that their best option is to be dead. Many doctors discriminate based on their own fears of being in the need of others and we have proof that they can foist those beliefs onto their patients and patient’s families both overtly and surreptitiously. In other words, the decision to die is not actually ever just the patient’s decision. There is always a doctor involved.

Are we going to allow a false notion of upholding dignity push us to the brink of suicide? Are we serving the greater good by granting doctors, whom we might not even know, the right to decide if a life meets their matrix for saving? I believe that doctors should never be in the business of deciding who they will let die. Never, ever. There are plenty of ways of dying in this world without our doctors’ encouragement. Our doctors should remain cleanly on that side of this argument. 

Thank you,

Pamela Daly  Charlestown, MA

Categories
Hearings News

H2381 – Cameron Testimony Oct 1, 2021

Download Cameron Testimony H2381 2021-10-01.pdf or read below.

I’m Anita Cameron, Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights organization opposed to medical discrimination, healthcare rationing, euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide.

H.2381/S.1384 is dangerous because though these laws are supposed to be for people with six months or less to live, doctors are sometimes wrong about a terminal diagnosis. My mother, while living in Washington state, was determined to be at the end stage of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I was told her death was imminent, that if I wanted to see her alive, I should get there in two days. She rallied, but was still quite ill, so she was placed in hospice. Her doctor said that her body had begun the process of dying.

Though she survived 6 months of hospice, her doctor convinced her that her body was still in the process of dying, and she moved home to Colorado to die.

My mum didn’t die. She became active in her community and lived almost 12 years!

H.2381/S.1384 will put sick people, seniors and disabled people, especially, at risk due to the view of doctors that disabled people have a lower quality of life, therefore leading them to devalue our lives. Now add race and racial disparities in healthcare to this. Blacks, in particular, receive inferior health care compared to whites in the areas of cardiac care, diabetes, cancer and pain management.

As a Black Latina, I didn’t see assisted suicide as part of my culture. This is borne out in a 2013 Pew study that shows Blacks and Latinos are 65% opposed to doctor assisted suicide and in states where it’s legal, rarely use the program. Doctor assisted suicide proponents tend to be white professional and managerial class folks.

What’s especially dangerous is that in states where it’s legal, if you lose access to healthcare, turning your chronic condition into a terminal one, you can request assisted suicide. It’ll be cheaper to kill you than to care for you.

As long as disability discrimination and racial disparities in healthcare exist, assisted suicide laws like H.2381/S.1384 have no place in Massachusetts. Please vote no on H.2381/S.1384.