Real “choice” belongs to insurers, who can deny prescribed treatments at will, even if lifesaving. In Oregon, you can qualify as “terminal” if you can’t afford your treatment, or if treatment stops for any reason. Legalization makes assisted suicide a “medical treatment,” a so-called “benefit” to be extended to ever more people, and that will always be the most profitable and “cost-effective.”
It is estimated that 1 in 10 Massachusetts older adults are abused every yEveryone is vulnerable to suggestion and persuasion. Nothing prevents self-interested family members and medical professionals from pushing for assisted suicide. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 1 in 10 Massachusetts older adults are abused every year, and COVID-19 has only made it worse. 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
Studies show that 12%-15% of people entering hospice with a terminal diagnosis outlive their prognosis. In 23 years in Oregon, 1900 people have been prescribed lethal drugs, but the survival rate past six months is only 4%. This suggests that a substantial number died by suicide when they were not dying. 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. Any other elective “treatment” with such deadly results would never be tolerated!
The doctors who decide who is eligible for assisted suicide are the same doctors who have been promoting Crisis Standards of Care that in an emergency would deny ventilators or beds for older, ill and disabled people. Ableism crossed with racism to end the life of Black quadriplegic Texan Michael Hickson, against the wishes of his wife and 5 children. The doctor’s “quality-of-life” justification for denying Michael treatment for COVID-19 was contradicted by a family video showing the joyful connection he had with his family. Disability advocacy organizations have filed complaints with the federal Office of Civil Rights. Decision-making was arbitrarily taken from Michaels wife, while in other cases Do Not Resuscitate orders have been placed in patient files against their wishes.
Medical prejudice and neglect results in racial disparities in diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, cancer, and heart trouble. COVID-19 has killed Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) at a much higher rate than Whites. Assisted suicide legalization makes it more likely that Black patients will be “written off” as better off dead, like Black Texan quadriplegic Michael Hickson.
Assisted suicide laws lead to the denial of suicide prevention services to seriously ill and disabled people, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s guarantee of equal program access. Assisted suicide laws redefine depression and feeling like a burden as “rational,” rather than as evidence of impairment or need for intervention. Suicide contagion is real and assisted suicide laws send the wrong message that suicide is an answer to personal problems.
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 mutual aid and interdependence.
In her New Year’s Eve 2019 ruling against a state constitutional right to die, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Mary K. Ames summed up some of the stresses that might hurry the moment when people ingest the poison.
“In such a situation, there is a greater risk that temporary anger, depression, a misunderstanding of one’s prognosis, ignorance of alternatives, financial considerations, strain on family members or significant others, or improper persuasion may impact the decision.”
June 15 by Anita Cameron of ADAPT, Article from Not Dead Yet
“COVID-19 continues to rage through America, but not many of us outside the media and disability rights and justice groups are talking about an overlooked population – residents of nursing facilities and institutions for disabled people, who are dying of COVID-19.
To date, more than 51,000 residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died. That’s more than 40 percent of the total death toll in the United States. These are only the numbers they tell us.”…
June 15, 2020
In light of new information, Second Thoughts Massachusetts revises its June 2 statement in opposition to the assisted suicide bill favorably reported by the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health. Assisted suicide bill S.2745, recently renumbered from S.1208/H.1926, was moved to the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing on June 8.
“I’m amazed and disappointed that as a deadly virus is stalking and killing older, ill, and disabled people, and systemic racism and healthcare disparities lead to disproportionate deaths of Black people, the Public Health Committee decides now would be the time to further endanger the same group of people. Assisted suicide legislation sends a message of ‘better dead than disabled’ while completely immunizing doctors, heirs, and stressed caregivers who can encourage or even engineer a person’s death without fear of prosecution,” said Second Thoughts Director John B. Kelly.
Anita Cameron, Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet, said “I am utterly disgusted that as COVID-19 ravages the Black community due to the results of racial disparities in healthcare, the Public Health Committee has decided to promote death over life. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Black community; we are dying at frightening rates. Black people overwhelmingly oppose assisted suicide. It’s not our top issue, but by pushing this mostly White-, mostly wealthy-backed bill, the legislature is sending a clear message to us Blacks that our interests can continue to be ignored.”
Diane Coleman, President and CEO of Not Dead Yet, said “The doctors who decide who’s eligible for assisted suicide are the same doctors who have been perfectly comfortable putting older, ill and disabled people at the back of the line for receiving COVID treatments. Why should anyone think they will move us to the front of the line for other life-saving treatments if assisted suicide is legal?”
Five months ago, Suffolk Superior court Judge Mary K. Ames in Kligler, et al. v. Healey, et al. ruled against any state constitutional right for assisted suicide, holding that at the point of a patient ingesting the lethal drugs, they would be vulnerable to improper persuasion. “In such a situation, there is a greater risk that temporary anger, depression, a misunderstanding of one’s prognosis, ignorance of alternatives, financial considerations, strain on family members or significant others, or improper persuasion may impact the decision.”
“The Massachusetts legislature should heed this warning by the court. If assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through insurance denials, abuse, and mistakes. 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,” Kelly added.
Second Thoughts Massachusetts is a group of disability rights advocates opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide. We testified against the bill S.1208 (now S.2745) at the hearing in June of 2019 and held a well-attended legislative briefing a few days after. It is the state affiliate of Not Dead Yet, the national grassroots group opposed to assisted suicide and life and death discrimination against disabled people.
CONTACT: John Kelly SecondThoughtsKelly@Gmail.com