Friday, July 15, 2022

Massachusetts must reject assisted suicide.

Maria Brown, the Massachusetts state director of LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic and Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. wrote an opinion article that was published by the Boston Herald on July 15, 2022. Brown wrote:

Brown: Massachusetts must reject bid to legalize assisted suicide

We are still mourning the approximately 18,000 Massachusetts residents who have died from COVID. In a time so filled with loss, it is senseless and irresponsible that many in our state Legislature are pushing to legalize assisted suicide. As a member of the Massachusetts chapter of LULAC, the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic and Latino civil rights volunteer-based organization, I strongly oppose the two bills under consideration, S.1384 and H.2381.

The dirty little secret is that assisted suicide is discriminatory. Latinos face significant hurdles accessing health care and the pandemic has magnified them. Both bills fail to even consider the latent discrimination and racism that pervade and have corrupted our health care system.

As a Latina, I have watched this process play out my entire life. My community struggles to access care and is locked out of treatment options. In 2019, a stunningly high 28.4% of Hispanic adults in Massachusetts reported being in fair or poor health, and the pandemic has wrecked us both nationally and locally. The dearth of protections for diverse communities combined with the lack of cultural knowledge and the language barrier has adversely affected my community in ways that can no longer be ignored. Latinos feel overwhelmed by a health care system that doesn’t cater to our needs.

Legalizing assisted suicide would institute a system in which “valued citizens” (the young, healthy and affluent) are encouraged to undergo treatment, and those that society too often only “pretends to value” (the disabled, minorities and the poor) are pushed towards life-ending options. My opposition to these assisted suicide bills is tied to my abiding commitment to expanding access to health care and fighting for equal human dignity.

Instead of providing more options for patients, assisted suicide funnels desperate people who lack a robust support system toward death. Proponents claim the proposed bills include sufficient safeguards, but history shows this hasn’t been true in other places that passed assisted suicide laws. So-called safeguards fail because it is difficult to prove coercion or malice after someone is dead.

Even if the safeguards were perfect, they still wouldn’t stop vulnerable members of society from being guided toward assisted suicide. A report written by the National Council on Disability discusses how society communicates to those with disabilities that they are “worth less” than other people and are a burden to their loved ones.

Assisted suicide encourages these fears, and that is one major reason why most disability groups oppose it. Seemingly neutral rules often lead to people with disabilities killing themselves because of societal expectations. As the report states, “some people who say they want to die will receive suicide intervention, while others will receive suicide assistance. The difference between these two groups of people will be their health or disability status.”

Similarly, those without substantial financial resources face pressure from an impersonal and amoral health care system to kill themselves. Insurance companies routinely deny coverage for lifesaving treatments, but offer to pay for assisted suicide. Patients placed in this situation often don’t have the financial resources and wherewithal to find alternative options.

Legalizing assisted suicide creates these situations because it blurs the line between legal death and murder. Unscrupulous actors will always take advantage of ambiguity, and society’s most vulnerable members, many of whom are people of color, end up getting crushed.

Less than a decade ago in the fall of 2012, the people of Massachusetts rejected a ballot initiative that legalized assisted suicide. Now our Legislature is considering doing what Massachusetts voters were wise enough to reject. The Massachusetts Legislature must recognize and act to oppose these assisted suicide bills and, instead, work towards creating a more equitable health care system that closes disparities in care for people with disabilities and communities of color.

More articles about Massachusetts assisted suicide debate:

1 comment:

SB from Friends For Life Alliance said...

This author rightly recognizes that legalizing assisted suicide leads to a two track system where some get the best medicine has to offer and the rest are put on a glide path to death.