Monday, February 12, 2024

Assisted suicide, disability discrimination and racial disparities.

This message was sent out by Diane Coleman from Not Dead Yet on Febraury 12

On February 8, the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee held a public hearing on a proposed assisted suicide bill (SB0443). That morning prior to the hearing, the Patients Rights Action Fund organized a press conference of opponents. Anita Cameron represented Not Dead Yet and made the following compelling arguments against the bill.

Anita Cameron
Anita Cameron's Press Conference Remarks

I'm Anita Cameron, Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet, a national disability organization opposed to medical discrimination, healthcare rationing, euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

SB 0443 will put sick people, seniors and disabled people, especially, at risk due to the view of doctors that disabled people have a lower quality of life, therefore leading them to devalue our lives.

In 2021, Lisa Iezzoni, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, conducted a survey of 714 doctors around the country as part of a study. She found "82.4 percent reported that people with significant disability have worse quality of life than nondisabled people. Only 40.7 percent of physicians were very confident about their ability to provide the same quality of care to patients with disability, just 56.5 percent strongly agreed that they welcomed patients with disability into their practices, and 18.1 percent strongly agreed that the health care system often treats these patients unfairly."

Now add race and racial disparities in healthcare to this. Blacks, in particular, receive inferior health care compared to whites in the areas of cardiac care, diabetes, cancer and pain management. Doctors are more likely to write us off as terminal, making us eligible for assisted suicide.

COVID, in particular, has laid bare racial disparities and disability discrimination in healthcare that leads to medical rationing and futility decisions that can end a person's life. Michael Hickson's case is a clear case of discrimination against disabled people.

Michael Hickson was a 46-year-old Black man from Texas, the father of 5 children. Mr. Hickson was a quadriplegic, the result of a brain injury caused by a heart attack. He was placed in a nursing home, where he contracted COVID. He was sent to St. David Hospital, in Austin, Texas. However, due to his disability, the doctors decided not to treat him, stating that he had no quality of life, though family videos show him laughing and singing with his wife and children. He was placed in hospice and allowed to die.

I, too, have personal experience with racial discrimination and disparities in healthcare. The most blatant example of this was when I went to the emergency department last year in intractable pain. A white woman, also in pain, was next to me in the hallway because it was very busy that day. We had the same ER doctor caring for us. She, without asking, got Dilaudid, a potent pain medication, while I got a pat on the shoulder and sent home.

As long as disability discrimination and racial disparities in healthcare exist and as long our broken, profit-driven healthcare system limits people's access to treatment, services and supports, assisted suicide laws like SB 0443 have no place in Maryland.


Anonymous said...

I’ve witnessed this in a Canadian Hospital when my daughter was in a recovery room after surgery. There were nurses going patient to patient administering pain medication except for the one black woman in the room. I commented to my daughter loud enough for 2 nurses to hear and only then did this Woman get the pain relief she was in need of. Racism is definitely a concern.

gordon friesen said...

As long as disability discrimination and racial disparities in healthcare exist and as long our broken, profit-driven healthcare system limits people's access to treatment, services and supports, assisted suicide laws like SB 0443 have no place in Maryland.

I would like to amplify that statement: Assisted suicide laws like SB 0443 have no place in Maryland, or anywhere else! Period.

Sadly, our adversaries have actually come to embrace the arguments of social disparity. They respond that assisted death is not the problem. That it is the system. In their world, assisted death is actually a positive benefit. And thus, they argue that waiting until we live in a perfect society, to enable assisted death, is to cause unacceptable suffering right now and PARTICULARLY among the disadvantaged (who are objectively suffering the worst).

Of course Anita Cameron is entirely right that assisted death will (eventually) impact specifically disadvantaged groups with greater weight (even though it is presently fueled by the existential angst of a privileged few). And indeed, that is the whole point of assisted death implemented as medical treatment: It is a public policy designed to eliminate unproductive people.

Getting to net zero, whether in social spending, or climate action, absolutely requires the elimination of anybody who consumes more than they produce. That is an axiom of any utilitarian thought (Doing the greatest good with whatever resources are available).

To my mind (as a proud, privileged, white, straight --although heavily disabled-- man) the true evil of assisted death lies in this monstrous utilitarian vision where individual people should be systematically thrown under the bus as soon as their economic balance tips negative.

On the other hand, I understand that we need arguments which will resonate with specific groups, making the struggle "personal" to each one.

On balance, therefore, I would prefer a formulation such as the following:

To kill people, as a cure for suffering, is a despicable anti-human program which denigrates the assumed worth of each and every one of us. There is no progress in social supports, or equitable treatment of individuals, which can ever make this OK.

AND ALSO... (it is pertinent to note) ... The following groups presently (or soon will) bear the brunt of this catastrophe in social policy)... a)... b)... c)