Testimony in Opposition to SB 1129
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Good day. Thank you very much for allowing me to offer my thoughts to you today.
I will not use the euphemism that is the name of this bill, but will refer to it by exactly what it is – physician assisted suicide. It is very important to be up front, clear and honest about what this is. Couching it in pretty language and hiding the truth is disingenuous at best, and dangerous, at worst.
I am Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights organization opposed to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against people with disabilities. I live in Rochester, New York, but work with people of color around the nation.
My primary reason for opposition to this bill and others like it is that disabled BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People Of Color) are at particular risk of being harmed by it.
Our health care system is inherently racist. Studies show that Blacks and people of color receive inferior medical treatment compared to Whites. We are less likely to receive adequate treatment for heart conditions, diabetes, cancer and chronic pain.
The lives of people with disabilities are largely devalued by doctors and society, in general. The lives of BIPOC with disabilities are even more devalued due to racism and stereotypes about our communities.
As a Black Indigenous Latina, I could never wrap my head around the assisted suicide phenomenon. I thought that it was some odd thing that privileged White people were into. My thoughts were confirmed when I learned that the Pew Research Center recently found that while 54% of Whites supported assisted suicide, 65% of Blacks and Latinos opposed it.
Although assisted suicide requests in Oregon are lower among Blacks and people of color, that doesn’t mean that this won’t change in more diverse areas, especially as healthcare support lessens and assisted suicide becomes more acceptable due to the efforts of groups like Compassion and Choices.
Another reason for my opposition is that doctors would be the gatekeepers of people’s lives (anyone can ask for assisted suicide, but it is the doctor that decides who gets it), and can decide for you about your quality of life.
Further, doctors often make mistakes about whether a person is terminal or not. In June, 2009, while living in Washington state, my mother was determined to be in the final stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and placed in hospice. Two months later, I was told that her body had begun the process of dying. My mother wanted to go home to Colorado to die, so the arrangements were made. A funny thing happened, though. Once she got there, her health began to improve! Almost eight years later, she is still alive, lives in her own home in the community and is reasonably active.
Because of the racist nature of our health care system and the tendency of doctors to devalue the lives of disabled and people of color, assisted suicide has no place as an option in Hawaii. Please vote NO on SB 1129!
Thank you for your attention.
Anita Cameron is the disability rights group - Not Dead Yet, director of minority outreach.