John Kelly’s Testimony and Diane Coleman’s Letter to the DC Council Health & Human Services Committee

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.

One thought on “John Kelly’s Testimony and Diane Coleman’s Letter to the DC Council Health & Human Services Committee

  1. Yes! I think you are right. Perhaps most physicians would prefer not to be put in the position of writing “lethal prescriptions” for patients or endorsing prescriptions that they don’t even monitor when the patient takes the prescription. It is true, also, that most physicians don’t want to be involved with abortions and this is a “specialty” also. It is not the treating physician or the primary physician who writes the lethal prescription but, of course, there will always be those physicians who will write the prescription because they share the view of Compassion and Choices and they do get paid for writing the prescription, don’t they? Again, it’s a “specialty” within a “specialty” that the majority of physicians would prefer to avoid.

    But, it’s the LAW that should concern us. While the Courts appear to indicate that physicians can let patients die by withholding indicated medical treatment, physicians can’t make them die. Passive euthanasia is, therefore, used in hospitals to withhold indicated treatments that they KNOW will NOT be reimbursed. We already have a slippery slope. As PAS is passed in more and more states, we know it will be misused as a financial tool because, of course, Americans are “product” for profit in our Medical Industrial Country. Active euthanasia may become routine and justified as serving the greater public good to include the good of the .
    private interests who dominate the system if our judges don’t uphold the current federal law that that prohibits the use of federal public funds for assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing. This federal law is troubling because it didn’t include the states. One can’t help but wonder what this means!

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