Sunday, April 12, 2015

Assisted Suicide - It's Civil Rights for the Affluent

This article was published by on April 12, 2015

Debra Saunders
By Debra J Saunders

The assisted-suicide movement is the rare self-proclaimed civil rights movement that exists to cater to the wishes of affluent Americans. On Tuesday, the California Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 128, a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the state. (Proponents don't like the word suicide, so they call the measure the "End of Life Option Act.") Supporters talk of their fear of medical personnel's prolonging their lives, of pain and lack of autonomy; opponents fear that the bill's passage would represent a callous act of cultural abandonment of the sick and disabled.

I don't mean to suggest that life is easy for those who have a personal stake in the bill's passage. Christina Symonds, 43, gave heart-rending testimony about her battle with ALS. Because she wants the ability to choose assisted suicide, her family moved to Oregon, which legalized assisted suicide 17 years ago. "I do not want to live my last days in a wheelchair, fully paralyzed, connected to a breathing machine," she said. "To me, that is the picture of horror." That is certainly not the end any young mother would choose.

Clearly, California should have a system that provides Symonds the best care and best pain control possible. Pain control has come a long way since Oregon legalized assisted suicide. But there's this sleight of hand on the part of supporters of assisted suicide. They talk about the need to avoid pain, when their real focus is their fear of losing control. It is an understandable, human fear, but it would be wrong to change the emphasis of medicine on healing to assuage that fear.

Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a bill co-sponsor, referred to "the lack of dignity" that can occur toward the end of life. That language implies that sick people who choose to live lack dignity.

Marilyn Golden
Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund is living proof that someone with disabilities can face unwanted obstacles and thrive. She tried to prompt committee Democrats to think about the many things that can and do go wrong. Doctors misdiagnose. Family members have the ability to make elderly relatives feel unwanted and alone. Lethal prescriptions are cheaper than complicated treatment, so HMOs have an incentive to push patients out the door. Disease can lead to depression, but that can be treated. When people first get a horrific diagnosis, they think they want to die; later many find that their prognosis turned out to be wrong or that they want to live what life they have left.

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