Kathy Hoell’s Testimony in Opposition to Nebraska LB 1056

March 1, 2016

Members of the Judiciary Committee

I am writing to oppose LB 1056, the Patient Choice at End of Life Act, as a member of Not Dead Yet. Not Dead Yet is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people. As a person who has had a physical disability for over 30 years, I feel that if this bill passes we would see some tragic mistakes. Since death is the ultimately irreversible tragedy, it is also final.

I had a Brain Injury a number of years ago, I was paralyzed from the neck down and was dependent on a ventilator for an extended period of time. At that time my family was not given much hope that I would survive. I realize there have been advances in medical care since then. But not to the extent many think. Over the past couple of years, I developed some pulmonary and cardiac issues that the doctors were sure would have been the end of me. Well they were wrong again. I am now back at work and leading my life as I did before. I had what the medical professionals considered a terminal condition both times that would have made me eligible for the assisted suicide bill that is under consideration. My family, friends, community and especially me would have suffered with this if this choice had been available.

At any time during my journey what could have happened if I had become depressed? LB 1056 would establish a government sponsored program of assisted suicide facilitated by doctors. I would be able to ask doctors for assistance in ending my life. But physicians don’t seem to be able to accurately predict when we’re likely to die or evaluate quality of life for a person with a disability. A person who develops a disability, whether from a car accident or a stroke or even cancer, goes through the same stages of grief that anybody experiences when they lose someone close to them. They have lost the life as known to them. So rather than referring them to a mental health provider or otherwise ensuring that people get needed care and support, something far worse and final could happen.

I live in a wheelchair, have limited mobility and have a voice impairment. But that’s ok! I have a 30-year-old son, drive my own car, go to the movies or anywhere else I want to go. I can’t tell you how many times medical professionals have asked me if I want to continue life like this. The answer is always “yes” because while I may do things differently than everybody else, it is/has been a good life. Please vote no on LB 1056.