NDY Staff Raise Disability and Minority Community Issues in Boston Training

On Saturday, May 6th, NDY’s John Kelly and Anita Cameron were part of a very informative and successful training on the dangers of assisted suicide legislation held in Boston by the Patients Rights Action Fund (PRAF). PRAF is an important partner in coalitions that oppose legalization of assisted suicide, and has offered similar trainings in many states across the country.

White man in motorized wheelchair sitting behind podium facing conference room tables, with an assistant and flip chart in the background.

In addition to numerous topics effectively covered by PRAF leadership, John Kelly, NDY’s New England Regional Director, talked about “The Messenger.”

Everyone can be an effective advocate against assisted suicide. If you don’t have your own story, you can use stories about other people. You can talk to people you know, you can talk with legislators, you can write letters and op-eds and use social media.

For spokespeople for a campaign, there are many good candidates, including disabled people, medical professionals, people of color, and people with powerful personal stories, like being misdiagnosed as terminal or having been suicidal. For example, because my disability is obvious, and many people think that they would rather be dead than like me, I can speak honestly against the mindset of “better dead than disabled.” I can try to humanize my position and nudge people out of their prejudices.

It’s important to talk about social justice, protecting innocent people, and looking at the significance of enacting assisted suicide as a state supported program.

John then asked Anita Cameron, NDY’s Director of Minority Outreach, to talk a little bit about bringing the message to people of color.

African American woman standing behind podium, with white man in motorized wheelchair in foreground looking at her.

Anita spoke about outreach to communities of color, particularly the Black community:

One has to acknowledge that with communities experiencing systemic racism and poverty, we may not see doctor assisted suicide as something that directly affects us. When people are worried about surviving a traffic stop or other encounter with the police, assisted suicide seems like something privileged people worry about. The same can be said about disabled communities of color.

The best way to reach communities of color, particularly Black people, is to highlight the racial disparities in health care and show that assisted suicide laws put us in greater danger of being coerced into assisted suicide because our lives are more likely to be devalued, especially if we are living in poverty and denied quality healthcare and palliative care. 

Although there are difficulties in organizing because of perceptions, people of color must reach out to our states’ Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian caucuses and members of the legislature to talk about the dangers of doctor assisted suicide to our communities.

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