Monday, March 8, 2021

Assisted suicide lobby spreads falsehoods to promote systemic ableism

The following article was published by CT Mirror on March 8, 2021.

By Stephen Mendelsohn
Research Analyst / Social Media Coordinator for Second Thoughts Connecticut.

Proponents of assisted suicide repeatedly spread falsehoods to promote their lethal and ableist agenda. The February 8 op-ed, “Aid in dying is not assisted suicide” is no exception.

Suicide is defined as the act of taking one’s life intentionally. The person who intentionally ingests a prescribed lethal overdose more closely fits the dictionary definition of suicide than the despondent person who jumps off a bridge. The desire for suicide is a cry for help, even when redefined as a “medical treatment option.”

The Connecticut State Suicide Prevention Plan 2025 posits a clear intersection between assisted suicide and other suicide. Connecticut has the only state suicide prevention plan that includes disabled people as a high-risk population. To quote the relevant section (pp. 57-58):

Discussions about assisted suicide for those with terminal illness intersect in important ways with suicide prevention. The active disability community in Connecticut has been vocal on the need for suicide prevention services for people with disabilities… [William] Peace writes that “Many assume that disability is a fate worse than death. So we admire people with a disability who want to die, and we shake our collective heads in confusion when they want to live.”

Connecticut’s suicide prevention plan makes a number of important recommendations, including “Do not assume suicide is a ‘rational’ response to disability or chronic illness.”

In addition to attempting to redefine suicide, the assisted suicide lobby promotes other falsehoods.

Proponents claim assisted suicide is only available to people who will soon die. Yet not only do many people far outlive “terminal” prognoses, including those who have received lethal prescriptions, but many disabled people are perceived as “terminally ill” by medical professionals. Laws allow treatable medical conditions like diabetes to qualify as “terminal diseases,” and proponents have long sought to expand suicide assistance to those with non-terminal disabilities.

They claim that their legislation is only for people in “deep and dire pain,” yet nothing in HB 6425 requires those seeking lethal overdoses to be in pain. Pain or the fear of it has never been in the top five reasons people give for seeking assisted suicide, according to Oregon’s annual reports. The overwhelming reasons people ask for assisted suicide involve not wanting to live the way disabled people do.

Proponents claim that there have been no abuses in states that have legalized assisted suicide, when the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund has documented a list of abuses and complications, including cases of prolonged and agonizing deaths. Moreover, as the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services stated: “We are not given the resources to investigate [assisted suicide cases] and not only do we not have the resources to do it, but we do not have any legal authority to insert ourselves.” The only reason more abuses have not been documented is that assisted suicide laws are designed to conceal them.

Advocates claim to be about patient choice, yet there have been instances when insurance companies would pay for assisted suicide but not curative care. A Connecticut state senator and leading assisted suicide proponent authored an op-ed proposing a separate bill that would “require the completion of advanced directives in order to sign up for Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance.” He spoke of his proposal as a way of getting people to forgo curative care, thereby reducing healthcare costs.

Finally, proponents demand legislation that mandates the falsification of death certificates. HB 6425 requires the underlying terminal illness be listed as the cause of death. If Connecticut follows the lead of Oregon and Washington, this will forbid any mention of the lethal overdose. Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice has twice submitted testimony in opposition to death certificate falsification, stating:

Section 9(b) effectively mandates the falsification of death certificates under certain circumstances. It states: “The person signing the qualified patient’s death certificate shall list the underlying terminal illness as the cause of death.” This is simply not the case; the actual cause of death would be the medication taken by or given to the patient… The practical problem for the criminal justice system and the courts will be confronting a potential Murder prosecution where the cause of death is not accurately reported on the death certificate.

Legislators and the public should not be fooled by a privileged lobby that seeks to sell suicide as a solution to their own disability-phobia. We should follow the recommendations of the National Council on Disability’s report, The Danger of Assisted Suicide Laws, and reject codifying lethal and systemic disability discrimination into law.

Stephen Mendelsohn is a Research Analyst / Social Media Coordinator for Second Thoughts Connecticut.

Previous articles by Stephen Mendelsohn (Link).

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