John Kelly and I both decided to add our own messages to the strong voices of disability rights advocates urging the DC Council to reject the assisted suicide bill that was the subject of the July 10th hearing before the Health & Human Services Committee.
John’s testimony on behalf of Second Thoughts Massachusetts focused on the common disability experience of misdiagnosis and grim prognosis, sharing John Norton’s personal story:
Doctors misdiagnose and give incorrect prognoses, frequently. In the disability community, we have many members who have been given a terminal diagnosis, some since birth, some more than once. One Second Thoughts member, John Norton of Florence Massachusetts, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in his first year of college – in 1955. He was told he would die in 3 to 5 years.
John’s complete testimony is available here.
My letter focused on the fact that assisted suicide laws give the real choice and control to doctors, and what the Oregon data shows about which doctors are giving lethal prescriptions for what reasons:
[Y]ou might wonder why I oppose a bill that is widely portrayed as giving people choice and control over their own death.
But who actually has choice and control under assisted suicide laws? Anyone could ask their doctor for assisted suicide, but the law gives the authority to doctors to determine who is eligible. Doctors make the determination that a person is terminally ill and likely to die in six months, and that the request for assisted suicide is voluntary and informed. The advertised “safeguards” in assisted suicide bills are entirely in the hands of doctors, from the diagnosis, prognosis, disclosures, request form, decision whether to refer for psychological assessment, prescription and report after death.
Who are the doctors who are giving lethal prescriptions? The public image is that one’s own doctor, someone who knows you and has taken care of you throughout your illness, will be the one who assists your suicide. But in Oregon, the majority of assisted suicides involve a doctor referred by Compassion and Choices.
The full text of my letter is available here.