This Op-Ed was published in the Connecticut Mirror on March 6, 2015.
By Stephen Mendelsohn, leader of the disability rights group Second Thoughts Connecticut.
The Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly has twice rejected doctor-prescribed suicide legislation after hearing testimony about the dangers it posed to seniors and people with disabilities. Some 140 attempts to legalize assisted suicide in other states have also been rejected.
Led by a vocal disability community, opposition to assisted suicide cannot be reduced to soundbites. Death is far too important for six-word slogans like “My Life. My Death. My Choice.” Instead, let us examine the real issues—the mistakes, coercion, and abuse that are inevitable and which cannot be fixed.
No assisted suicide bill proposed to date requires witnesses at the time of death. Bills do, however, allow the witnesses to the suicide request to be an heir and a close friend of that heir. There is no way to know whether the individual took the life-ending drugs voluntarily or was pressured. Existing laws have no investigative authority. Moreover, doctors are required to falsify death certificates, stating as the cause of death the underlying illness rather than the lethal prescription.