|John Kelly on left.|
“We have a public health problem, but it isn’t certain people’s lack of dignity, it’s the turn to suicide as a social solution by a powerful social class. Legalizing assisted suicide would only entrench this suicidal tendency as the preferred social norm.”
“When physician-assisted suicide is presented to a person with a disability, they are not just making a simple choice to live or to die. They are also being pressured by society, by their family and friends, and by medical providers, to admit that their life is not worth living.”
. . . me feel like my body has been immersed in scalding water from the neck down all the way to my bones, every day, all day long, 24/7. Because the damage also causes my heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature to fluctuate widely, I have no doubt that, if I lived in Oregon, where PAS is legal, I could have found a doctor from Compassion and Choices to say I had six months or less to live and received a lethal prescription.
If assisted suicide had been available to me, none of these things would have happened. A lethal prescription is not a medical treatment. It is, literally, killing with what people mistakenly think is kindness. All people, even people who are nearing the end of life, deserve suicide counseling and compassionate, life-affirming health care and supports, including adequate pain medication, not a lethal prescription.
I’d like to imagine that the choice to end one’s life would be made without any influence of guilt over the cost of care, hopelessness due to failure of systems of care, or loss of self-esteem due to living in a society that values youth, productivity and independence. But, this is not the world we live in. My experience as a geriatric social worker parallels physician Ira Byock’s observations, that “much suffering of people with advanced illness is preventable and the indignities are imposed.”
Once someone has a disability, there will likely be times where problems arise and survival is not assured. Add to that the very strong cultural assumption that death is preferable to life with a disability, and you have a recipe for disaster. Most of us have stories about how doctors treat us differently from our nondisabled counterparts, asking us if aggressive treatment is really what we want or need. For us, physician assisted suicide looks like a new way to die from our practitioners’ unconscious biases.
“My Life. My Death. My Choice.” What does that message, plastered on billboards and worn on stickers, send to an autistic or LGBT teenager who is being mercilessly bullied? When you give a societal go-ahead for suicide under the Orwellian term “compassionate aid-in-dying,” it becomes contagious, especially in a society obsessed with me, myself, and I.
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.
|Bill Peace on left.|
He grimly told me I would be bedbound for at least six months and most likely a year or more. That there was a good chance the wound would never heal. If this happened, I would never sit in my wheelchair. I would never be able to work again. Not close to done, he told me I was looking at a life of complete and utter dependence. My medical expenses would be staggering. Bankruptcy was not just possible but likely. Insurance would stop covering wound care well before I was healed. Most people with the type of wound I had ended up in a nursing home.
But bill opponents fear the law could be abused to coerce the disabled and elderly into dying.
“What people should be doing instead of searching for suicide as an answer is making sure that good palliative care and early enough hospice is available to everyone,” John Kelley (sic), director of Second Choices Mass.