Steve Gold, who has long served as a disability rights attorney for both ADAPT and NDY, just had his letter published in the New York Times. It’s the second letter in a group responding to a recent pro-assisted suicide opinion by the NYT editorial board. Here’s Steve’s excellent letter:
To the Editor:
You equate the Canadian physician-assisted suicide proposal with the Oregon, Washington State and Vermont laws. The differences show how far down the assisted-suicide slippery slope we have gone.
First, Canada does not require a diagnosis of a terminal illness or condition, but only suffering that the patient finds “intolerable.” This certainly takes the physician off the hook. A spurned young lover thinks that life is over. Do we really want society to assist him to end his life?
Second, Canada does not require a physician to predict death within six months, but only that death is “reasonably foreseeable.” As subjective as the requirement in American states with aid in dying laws that death be expected within six months, Canada loosens it much more. Let’s hope that the assisting physician is prescient.
Third, there is no mandate for a physician to require treatment or palliative care. What’s next in this slope?
STEPHEN F. GOLD
The writer is a disability rights lawyer.
In addition, here’s my recent letter which appeared in the Des Moines Register on April 24th. The article to which my letter responds briefly downplays and misrepresents the disability opposition to legalizing assisted suicide. Here’s my letter:
There are some misleading statements and omissions in the article “Sides deepen in Iowa’s death with dignity debate” [April 17]. Contrary to the article, every major national disability organization that has taken a position on the issue opposes legalizing assisted suicide. The reference to the Disability Rights Legal Center does not refute this fact. DRLC is now run by Kathryn Tucker, former in-house attorney for Compassion and Choices, the assisted suicide lobby group, for over 15 years. DRLC’s primary claim to being “national” is two assisted suicide lawsuits she has led in New Mexico and New York. For a listing of the legitimate national disability organizations that oppose legalizing assisted suicide, see http://notdeadyet.org/disability-groups-opposed-to-assisted-suicide-laws.
Why are they opposed? This is not about people’s option to commit suicide, which is not illegal. This is about how the health care system upon which we all depend responds to a person who says they want society’s agreement with their suicide and the means to do it. We are worried about health care cost-cutting pressures. Assisted suicide by doctors is a deadly mix in a profit-driven health care system.
We are also worried about putting lethal drugs in the home of a seriously ill person in a society where one in 10 elders are abused, mostly by family. The claim that there are “safeguards” doesn’t make it so. Where assisted suicide is legal, an heir (someone who stands to inherit from the patient) or abusive caregiver may steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and even give the drug — no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? For examples of abuses in states where it’s legal, see https://dredf.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/revised-OR-WA-abuses.pdf.
[Somehow, I was mis-identified as being from Rochester, Nebraska, but I’m still in NY!]