Tuesday, February 22, 2022

EPC - USA Testimony opposing Connecticut Assisted Suicide Bill.

February 21, 2022

Mary Daugherty Abrams and Jonathan Steinberg, Co-Chairs and Members Connecticut Public Health Committee

Link to the letter (Link).

RE: Testimony Opposing S.B. 88, An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients

Dear Co-Chairs and Members:

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, instead supporting positive measures to improve peoples’ quality of life which also helps their families. We are aging and disability advocates, lawyers, doctors, nurses and politicians.

We are asking you to let SB 88 die in your committee. You will hear several of the more obvious concerns about Assisted Suicide from other opponents. I will focus on these issues about Assisted Suicide that you may not otherwise hear.

  • The Bill allows Assisted Suicide with elastic and meaningless “safeguards.”
  • Assisted Suicide is not about pain or receiving a peaceful death; both are myths.
  • Assisted Suicide spawns more suicides and attempted suicides.
  • Insurance companies use Assisted Suicide to deny coverage for curative life-saving treatments, offering to pay for Assisted Suicide instead. This raises equity concerns.
The Bill allows Assisted Suicide with elastic and meaningless “safeguards.”

Connecticut criminalizes aiding a person to commit suicide, which is classified as 2nd degree manslaughter. CGS § 53a-56. S.B.88 at Sec. 12(d) removes criminal prosecution under CGS § 53a-56 for anyone self administering a lethal prescription under the “aid in dying” law. Thus, it is clear the bill is allowing assisting a person to commit suicide whatever pretty euphemism is created by marketing consultants to make it sound better.

Dr. Diane E. Meier, best known as the founder of Mt. Sinai’s Center to Advance Palliative Care, and a one-time proponent of Assisted Suicide years ago, recently said safeguards go up in smoke once the law allows it:
All the heartfelt adherence to restrictions that are announced when you first get the public [or Legislature] to vote in favor of this go up in smoke once the practice is validated. …It’s a dangerous path to go down with the claim that it is all about respect for autonomy, when the real drivers are getting rid of a painful and expensive burden on society.
S.B. 88 allows the prescription of a lethal dose to people who are terminally ill, with a 6 month prognosis, and who can self-administer by ingesting. No safeguards or witnesses are required at the time of ingestion regardless of the person’s mental state or ability to self-administer. I will briefly touch on this.

People qualify as terminally ill despite being able to live for years with treatment. Some of the diagnoses that qualify are infectious disease, gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, arthritis, sclerosis, stenosis, and musculoskeletal system disorders. The latest effort to stretch “terminally ill” treats anorexia as a qualifying terminal disease.

Here’s how one doctor describes self-administration in his practice:
He would load the medication into a plastic syringe and then hand the plunger to the patient, who would press down on it to “self-administer” and “ingest” the drugs. Sometimes, if a patient was weak, Shavelson would hold the plunger himself and place the patient’s hand on top of his. “If I feel you pushing on my hand,” he would say, “we will push together.”
It’s Not about Pain or a Peaceful Death; Both are Myths

Dr. Lonny Shavelson’s practice is limited to providing only Assisted Suicide. He now consults and educates other physicians who are willing to kill. He says:
promoting “aid in dying” as avoiding pain is a political sales pitch. See webinar minutes 25:24-27:53.
In his experience, people choose Assisted Suicide because they are low energy or afraid of losing control. He says Oregon’s data is consistent with his experience. The Oregon data show most people choose Assisted Suicide because of a decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities (94%), loss of autonomy (93%) and loss of dignity (72%), not fear of pain and suffering.

Dr. Shavelson says another myth is that Assisted Suicide creates a peaceful beautiful death. Actually, it does not change what happens during dying. It simply makes it faster. People gasp for air, change colors, sweat, twitch, have seizures and sometimes vomit. See webinar minutes 37:35-41:00.

For many years, fatal quantities of barbiturates were prescribed to carry out Assisted Suicide. These drugs cause the lungs to fill with fluids like drowning. When these drugs became expensive, Assisted Suicide doctors experimented on people with other drug cocktails, some of which burned people’s throats causing them to scream in pain and extended the dying process by more than 3 hours and as much as 31 hours.

Assisted Suicide Spawns More Suicides and Attempted Suicides.

If you enact S.B. 88, more people will die by suicide and more will attempt suicide. This is the collateral damage caused by suicide contagion when Assisted Suicide is legalized. If you do so, you send a message that suicide is an acceptable solution to problems. Publicity about suicide leads to more suicides; this is called suicide contagion. Legalizing Assisted Suicide is linked to suicide contagion.

Legalization of Assisted Suicide especially impacts youths. A 2019 report found teen suicides in California increased by 34% since that state legalized Assisted Suicide in 2016. Oregon’s youth suicides increased 79.3% from 2000 to 2018. Research about completed suicides in four states that legalized Assisted Suicide (Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana) found it was associated with at least a 6.3% increase in the rate of all suicide deaths. For every person who dies by suicide, another 30 attempt suicide.

So let’s apply this to Connecticut which now has a low suicide rate compared to other states. In 2020, 359 people died by suicide in Connecticut. A 6.3% increase will add 22 suicides if S.B. 88 is enacted. For each one of these 22 suicides, another 30 or 660 people will attempt suicide; some of them will become permanently disabled.

Insurance Companies Use Assisted Suicide to Deny Curative Life-Saving Treatment

Insurers stop covering certain treatments due to the availability of Assisted Suicide. Dr. Brian Callister of Nevada says he was stunned when insurance would not cover life saving treatment for his patients who were transferring to California and Oregon, but offered to pay for Assisted Suicide instead. These were people who could be cured with the denied treatment rather than being rendered terminal. In effect, Assisted Suicide is being used to shunt people off the curative, restorative medicine track, especially if they cannot afford to pay for treatments out of pocket, just like Dr. Diane Meier said.

There also equity concerns. People of color get this. Even with insurance, people of color get poorer hospital care and pain relief according to a New York Times article. They are disproportionately dying of COVID-19. So, it is unsurprising that Black and Latin0 people oppose Assisted Suicide by 2-1 margins‒ “… the voting results from [Massachusetts] Ballot Question 2 in 2012 show Assisted Suicide pits wealthier, whiter districts against those with poorer people and people of color according to Second Thoughts – Massachusetts. The same is likely true in Connecticut.

In closing, I urge you to consider the heartache for families whose members are impacted by suicide contagion and the loss of insurance coverage for curable treatments that would follow enactment of S.B. 88 which also contributes to inequity for people of color. If you weigh that against the so-called benefits of Assisted Suicide which are myths, you will let S.B. 88 die in your committee.


Sara Buscher, Chair
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA


gordon friesen said...

Dear Sara,

I am a bit late with this, but I wanted to congratulate you on the great work you did with the Massachusetts court brief. In particular I noticed this:

"Appellants are wrong to suggest a constitutional right to
assisted suicide could be limited to a narrow class of people."

That is the clearest statement of this simple fact that I have yet seen. And I believe it should be repeated, in exactly those terms, at every conceivable opportunity.

There are actually two sides to this proposition: 1) If you think that assisted suicide is a bad thing, then any definition, whatever, poses a blatant discriminatory danger to all people included therein. However, 2) If you think that assisted suicide is a good thing, then the exclusion of anyone, at all (from the defined group) is an equally blatant injustice, depriving that person of those benefits.

It is my opinion, that one (if not the most) important strategical blunder made by our side in the Canadian legislative-judicial saga, has been our unwillingness to openly insist on proposition 2). What we unfortunately did was to delve ONLY into proposition 1) (the discriminatory dangers to the disabled).

It is now my belief, that the disabled arguments (however valid) cannot possibly prevail. Or at least, that they definitely cannot prevail alone. And this, for exactly the reasons so dramatically argued by the very advocates thereof: That the public really ARE opposed to (or at best ambivalent about) the survival of the dependent, generally, and of the disabled, more specifically.

As a result, therefore, we are reduced to hand-wringing, and specious phrases such as "... that is not who we are...".

Only (I suggest) with arguments that reveal to people that they PERSONALLY have skin in this game (in the way that our friend Margret Doré argues that any person with a savings account will become the target of greedy heirs), and only if ordinary people understand that they themselves are at mortal risk, can we expect them to oppose the danger (for themselves), rather than to embrace the freedom (for others).

Continued below...

gordon friesen said...

Dear Sara, Part II

For instance. Every parent must be made to understand that every moody adolescent will eventually have the right to seek assisted death; and this, for no other reason than that they WILL have a right to do so. Because that right (if conceived as a desirable benefit) can NOT be restricted to any particular group.

Hence, it is totally counterproductive to skate around with ominous vague warnings of slippery slopes. There is no slope! From the moment that legislation is passed enabling assisted death for anyone, there is a clear judicial path marked out for the access of absolutely EVERYone.

I myself am a disabled individual. I first got into this debate because of the personal risks to me and to mine. But I have been schooled over time (thirty years since Rodriguez vs Supreme Court of Canada). I am Canadian, and I have seen things go (in perfectly predictable logical fashion) from "assisted suicide" to "euthanasia", and from extraordinary to routine. The current definition here, now, is: ANY discomfort (physical or psychological) which is unacceptable to the sufferer (and this, from a legal view, meaning eventually: ANYONE at all). I repeat: there is no slope. This conclusion is baked in the cake from the very first authorization accorded.

If we (the disabled) wish to win this fight. We have to get over ourselves. We have to explain to the typical AB (able-bodied person) why this matters to them personally, NOT as an abstract moral duty (to be nicer to us), but as a direct physical threat (to them).

So once again. Great work! My only suggestion is to move this crucial point up to the top of the list, and begin to elaborate on what it implies. I don't suggest we omit the disabled stuff. Of course not. It is quite effective among a certain class of persons who are already convinced that suicide is (categorically) bad. I simply suggest that in our ardor to vindicate our own disabled reality, that we not forget to make points that might actually shift other peoples' thinking based upon their own interests.

After all: are we in it to win it? or just to lobby for peripheral agendas?

Best Regards,

Gordon Friesen, Montreal

Gordon Friesen, Montreal
http://www.euthanasiediscussion.net/     (français)

http://euthanasiadiscussion.com/      (english site in development)

http://hopeandfree.com/        (personal philosophical musings)