Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Disability rights leaders oppose assisted suicide bill

Press Conference opposing Massachusetts assisted suicide bill.

At least seven disability rights advocates were prepared to testify on one of two panels. The following are links to three of those testimonies with short excerpts from each.

John Kelly
 John Kelly’s Testimony

Like most progressives, I strongly oppose capital punishment. We simply can’t stomach the fact that at least 4% of people sentenced to die are not guilty. We know that when there is a mistake, there’s no remedy.

H.1926 would in effect sentence to death non-dying people. Doctors misdiagnose all the time, and it’s estimated that 12 to-15% of people will outlive their six-month terminal diagnosis. . . .

And when more than half of suicide deaths in Oregon last year were reported to feel like a burden on others, we can see evidence of bullying, shame, and loss of options. When you read the title of the bill with different emphasis, it doesn’t mean options for the end-of-life but “the end [pause] of life-options.”

Ruthie Poole’s Testimony

Those of us in M-POWER know that depression is insidious in how it affects thinking. Against the new provision, we know that depression does impair judgment. As a therapist once told me, depression does not cause black and white thinking; it causes black and blacker thinking. 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.

We applaud the Joint Committee on Public Health and other members of the Legislature who have worked hard to expand funding for suicide prevention efforts. Passing this bill would be a slap in the face of those efforts. Suicide contagion is real. Any assisted suicide program will send the message to people in mental distress – old, young, physically ill or not – that suicide is a reasonable answer to life’s problems.

Anita Cameron
 Anita Cameron’s Testimony Although assisted suicide requests in Oregon (which this bill and others are modeled on) 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. . . . 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! Ten years later, she is still alive, lives in her own home in the community and is reasonably active.

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