(Head and shoulders photo of Anita Cameron, an African-American woman.)
Although a 2013 Pew Research Center study shows that 65 percent of Blacks are against assisted suicide, there are not many Blacks who are active in the anti-doctor assisted suicide movement. Here are three reasons that we Blacks must join this critical movement.
1. Our Healthcare System is inherently racist. Studies show that Blacks are treated differently than White patients and receive inferior care, particularly in the areas of cardiac, diabetes, and pain management. Blacks are more likely to die because doctors have overlooked something critical or will not listen to or believe what we have to say about our health and pain. This puts us at a greater risk for persuasion or coercion into assisted suicide should we acquire a terminal illness.
2. Black patients, particularly those of us with disabilities, are more likely to be poor and either not have access to or be aware of services, supports and financial assistance and accommodations, putting us at risk of doctors devaluing our lives and persuading or coercing us into assisted suicide, citing financial burdens on our families.
3. Groups like Compassion & Choices are making inroads into our communities and convincing some Black folks that doctor assisted suicide is a good thing when in fact it is not. We Black folks have a natural tendency toward suspicion of the medical community because of experiments like The Tuskegee Project, sterilization and other atrocities perpetrated against us without our knowledge or consent. As doctor assisted suicide becomes legal in more diversely populated states, Blacks and people of color will be at greater risk of this practice.
It’s time we stop looking at doctor assisted suicide as a privileged White folks issue. It’s also time that we expand our reason for objection from simply a religious issue to what it actually is–a deadly form of discrimination against people with disabilities and seniors. It sets up a two-tiered system where young, healthy folks get mental health treatment for suicidal feelings, while disabled, sick or seniors, especially poor folks, would get the “option” of doctor assisted suicide long before we get quality pain relief and other needed supports. This isn’t something that may happen. Insurers in Oregon and California have already begun to deny people cancer treatment and offer the suicide cocktail.
We need to join the disability community in speaking out and fighting against doctor assisted suicide. Don’t be fooled by Compassion & Choices, their media lackeys or doctors who place little or no value on our lives. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is about “choices” or “rights”. It is about discrimination, plain and simple.