Monday, September 20, 2021

Push for assisted suicide raises questions over disability rights

This letter was published by the Boston Globe and Not Dead Yet on September 7, 2021

John Kelly
In response to an essay on the Victorian fantasy of a peaceful death, two letter writers (“Beyond the fantasy of a gentle death,” Aug. 29) called on the state Legislature to pass the proposed assisted suicide bill.

Paula Bacon and Molly DeHaas Walsh describe the circumstances of difficult deaths and believe that assisted suicide would bring them control, choice, and dignity when their pain and suffering become unbearable.

But when doctors misdiagnose people as terminal, the possibility of real choice disappears. Studies show that 12 percent to 15 percent of people outlive hospice, but in Oregon, with its Death With Dignity Act, only about 4 percent of people have lived past six months. This suggests that as many as 1 in 10 people ended their life prematurely. No one would tolerate any other elective treatment this deadly.

The Oregon reports show that the main “end-of-life concerns” stem not from physical pain but from “existential distress” over the disabling aspects of serious illness, such as dependence, status loss (“dignity”), incontinence, and feeling like a burden on others.

As someone paralyzed below the shoulders, I am terrified of the prospect of a state law sponsoring people’s suicides as rational responses to disability. Massachusetts should instead fully fund home care and provide world-class palliative care. Equality under the law depends on it.

John B. Kelly

Previous articles on assisted suicide by John Kelly (Link). 


Gerry said...

It appears that society is approaching a time when some rights have become favourable and other rights disfavourable.

Tershia said...

We live in an unGodly age where saving money becomes the criterion for most decisions, especially in the area of health care.
If caregivers of the various needs for their sick or handicapped patients have an attitude of respect, love and caring for their patients, they can be helped to overcome the many stress related concerns mentioned in this article. If we give dignity to people in any circumstances by the respect we give then, there is no need for them to feel the loss of their dignity.

I believe this from my own experience when my husband was in palliative care at home for eight months last year. The nurses who came almost daily to monitor his heart and see that his medicines were corrected as necessary, very kind, caring and friendly. The palliative doctor was equally so. That helped him to feel quite relaxed and unconcerned over the physical help that increased with time.
As his end drew nearer, his medication was adjusted to alleviate his pain and anxiety and he died quietly in his sleep, having experienced throughout his illness “the peace of God that passes all understanding.”

This was possible in Canada where it has been officially stated that the medical cost savings through euthanasia could be $138.8 million annually.

I wish Mr. Kelly only the very best.