[Editor’s note: Today, NDY’s Anita Cameron is among the speaker’s at a press conference announcing the introduction of a bipartisan Sense of Congress Resolution detailing the dangers of a public policy of assisted suicide. NDY’s disability community allies, including ADAPT, DREDF and NCIL, support this Resolution. The National Alliance press release is below.]
For Immediate Release: September 27th, 2017
Patients Rights Action Fund Along With The National Alliance Against Legalizing Assisted Suicide Praise Introduction of Federal Legislation Opposing Legalization of Assisted Suicide
“Many do not realize that people battling terminal illness, people with disabilities and others are inadvertently targeted by the legalization of assisted suicide…This bill takes a big step toward protecting me and so many others from a death-too-soon.”
- J. Hanson, terminal brain cancer patient and president of Patients Rights Action Fund
Washington, D.C. – Today Patients Rights Action Fund (PRAF), together with a broad-based alliance including Physicians for Compassionate Care, National Council on Independent Living, ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and more, AllianceAgainstAssistedSuicide.org, praised United States Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Luis Correa (D-CA), and a group of bipartisan cosponsors for introducing Sense of Congress legislation who reject assisted suicide as public policy.
The resolution details a multitude of reasons why it is a grave mistake to legalize assisted suicide. Ultimately, assisted suicide puts everyone, especially the most vulnerable, at risk for a death-too-soon and undermines the entire purpose of the health care system.
J.J. Hanson, terminal brain cancer patient and president of Patients Rights Action Fund said, “Many do not realize that people battling terminal illness, people with disabilities and others are inadvertently targeted by the legalization of assisted suicide. I am grateful to Congressmen Correa, Vargas, Wenstrup and all of the other cosponsors for introducing a Sense of Congress resolution. This bill brings attention to this important issue and takes a big step toward protecting me and so many others from a death-too-soon.”
This Alliance has brought many people together from across the political and social spectrum including medical professionals, groups that advocate for persons with disabilities, people who experience depression, and the elderly, as well as advocates for people with terminal illness, and others.
Statements from Coalition Partners on Federal Legislation:
Diane Coleman, President/CEO of Not Dead Yet: “As a national, secular, social justice organization, Not Dead Yet strongly supports this bipartisan effort to speak truth to the many myths about legalized assisted suicide. As Americans with disabilities, we are on the front lines of the nation’s health care system that often devalues old, ill, and disabled people. So we are grateful for this Sense of Congress that explains the dangers of mistake, coercion, and abuse under a public policy of assisted suicide.”
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF): “Where assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone. The so-called safeguards are very weak, and the lack of oversight hides these dangers from public view. Moreover, assisted suicide laws are a prescription for elder abuse and abuse of people with disabilities. Supporters of assisted suicide say such laws won’t affect disabled people—but they will, whether or not they realize it. But there is a legal alternative: anyone dying in discomfort may legally receive palliative sedation. Under these circumstances, assisted suicide is not real choice, but a phony form of freedom.“
ADAPT: “Disabled people and seniors who need assistance with everyday tasks like dressing and bathing want the choice to get those services at home and to have control over how they’re delivered. We do not want to be forced into a nursing facility, nor forced to live in poverty to qualify. Unfortunately, that choice is not a reality for most of us. In states that have legalized assisted suicide, Oregon data shows, over a third of those who request assistance to die do so because of “feelings of being a burden” and over 90% cite “loss of autonomy” as a factor. If the only alternative to death is poverty and segregation in nursing facilities, assisted suicide is not a “choice.” Society is failing to ensure access to consumer controlled long-term services. The last thing we need in this time of draconian budget cuts in Medicaid is the legalization of assisted suicide laws, because the untimely deaths of disabled Americans can easily be seen as a cost saving answer.”
Kelly Buckland of National Council on Independent Living: “Our society places a high value on physical appearance and ability, and stigmatizes significant disability. It’s no surprise that those of us who grew up able-bodied and then became disabled might initially see disability as a huge loss of one’s former dreams and physical abilities. When someone is first hit with this, they may feel they’d be better off dead. As one struggles to get basic needs met, some people feel worn down. If assisted suicide had been legal in the past, even if it were supposedly only for those with “terminal” conditions, I might not be here today. I’m grateful that assisted suicide was not legal back then, and I’m committed to keeping it that way. This is an important reason why the National Council on Independent Living opposes assisted suicide laws. NCIL is a leader in the disability rights movement, our political struggle for equal rights. And, among other things, equal rights include equal suicide prevention.”
William F. Toffler, National Director of Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Fund: “Empowering doctors to assist patients in killing themselves has led to an inevitable erosion of trust in the motives of doctors, health care institutions, and insurers. This has been detrimental to patients, degraded the quality of medical care, and compromised the integrity of medical profession wherever assisted suicide has been legalized. The solution to suffering is not to end the life of the sufferer; rather society’s focus at the end of life should be to alleviate suffering by improving access to hospice and palliative care whenever it is needed.”
Joseph E. Marine, M.D.: “As a physician in practice for over 16 years, I appreciate the great trust that patients and the public place in the medical profession and in American health care institutions. It is one of the reasons that many health care professionals have been working in state capitals across the country to oppose legislation which would legalize assisted suicide. I applaud the efforts of Congressmen Wenstrup, Correa, Abraham, Harris, Vargas and the other cosponsors to increase awareness of the dangers of this practice. Their bipartisan Sense of Congress Resolution clearly states many of the risks and lack of enforceable safeguards in assisted suicide legislation, including lack of witnesses, absence of impartial oversight and routine audits, falsification of death certificates, inadequate psychiatric screening, and poor regulation of the dangerous controlled substances prescribed for purpose of suicide. Assisted suicide laws represent a danger to the integrity of the medical profession and the trust that the public places in health care institutions. I hope that this important House Resolution will attract many co-sponsors and enjoy swift passage through the Congress.”
Laws legalizing assisted suicide have been passed in five states and the District of Columbia. In Montana, because of a court ruling, if doctors are prosecuted, they can use the patient’s request as a potentially viable defense in court. Twenty-three other states have rejected bills attempting to legalize assisted suicide since the beginning of 2017.
The mission of the Patients Rights Action Fund (PRAF) is to protect the rights of patients, people with disabilities, and others inadvertently targeted by legalizing assisted suicide. PRAF is the national coordinated movement to promote measures that protect patients’ civil rights, to weaken the breadth and effectiveness of pro-assisted suicide laws and rulings, to work toward repeal of the same, and to oppose efforts to make suicide a legal medical treatment option.
The National Alliance Against Assisted Suicide shares this mission in general and collectively supports this specific legislation and no other at this time.