Friday, December 9, 2011

Disability Rights Group Announces Opposition to Massachusetts Assisted Suicide Initiative

Not Dead Yet circulated information concerning yesterdays press conference by the Massachusetts group - Second Thoughts. Second Thoughts is composed primarily of people with disabilities who have organized to oppose the assisted suicide initiative in Massachusetts. Please read:

Boston, MA (PRWEB) December 09, 2011
On Thursday, December 8 at 12:30 p.m. at the Massachusetts State House, disability rights advocates, speaking as part of a new group they are calling Second Thoughts, publicly announced their opposition to a proposed assisted suicide 2012 ballot initiative in Massachusetts. Led by Boston disability activist John Kelly, with members from a number of the state’s centers for independent living run by people with disabilities, the group plans to add its voice to the growing and diverse opposition to the initiative.

Kelly spoke at a press conference attended by about 25 advocates. Karen Schneiderman, a woman with a disability who testified against an assisted suicide bill in 2010, spoke as a member of Second Thoughts as well. There were also remarks from other individuals who oppose legalization of assisted suicide, including former State Representative Mark Carron.

“Some people may ask why disabled people are speaking out about problems with a proposal that’s supposed to be about terminal illness,” said Kelly, “but when you look at the reasons Oregon reports for giving lethal prescriptions, it’s mainly about the social and emotional issues of becoming disabled, like depending on others and feeling like a burden.”

The top five reasons Oregon doctors report patients requesting suicide all relate to the perceived quality of life -- not the conditions of actual dying -- of the patient. In order, the reasons listed are the "loss of autonomy" (89.9%), “less able to engage in activities” (87.4%), “loss of dignity” (83.8%), “loss of control of bodily functions” (58.7%) and "feelings of being a burden” (38.3%) (Death With Dignity Act Annual Reports).

“There are so many problems with this initiative, from everyday inaccuracies in diagnosis and prognosis, to a lack of meaningful safeguards against abuse and pressure from self interested family,” said Paul Spooner, executive director of Metro West Center for Independent Living. “The reality is that once the lethal dose is in the house, an heir to the person’s estate could administer it without anyone’s knowledge.”

The Massachusetts disability advocates have reached out for support from national disability groups that have long opposed assisted suicide, especially Not Dead Yet and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Last weekend, on December 3, the Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents 23,000 of the state’s physicians, voted to sustain its long standing opposition to doctor assisted suicide. According to the Society’s press release, Lynda Young, M.D., president of the Society, said that “Physicians of our Society have clearly declared that physician-assisted suicide is inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer and health care provider. At the same time we recognize the importance of patient dignity and the critical role that physicians have in end-of-life care.”

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