This testimony was published on the Not Dead Yet website on June 23, 2015.
Chairperson Alexander, Members of the Committee on Health and Human Services:
I am the director of Massachusetts Second Thoughts: People with Disabilities Opposing the Legalization of Assisted Suicide. We were the progressive voice in Massachusetts that helped defeat the assisted suicide ballot question in 2012, and again in the legislature last year. Our opposition is based in universal principles of social justice that apply to everyone, whether disabled or not. Drawing on those same principles, we supported the medical marijuana ballot question in 2012 of the relief it brings to many disabled people.
We chose our name Second Thoughts because we find that many people, once they delve below the surface appeal of assisted suicide, have “second thoughts” and oppose it. In Massachusetts a month before the election, 68% of voters supported the ballot question. But just as closer looks in Massachusetts – and this year in Maryland, California, Connecticut, among other states –– led to a considered rejection of assisted suicide, we urge you to reject B21-38 because of the real-world threats it poses.
If this bill passes, innocent people stand to lose their lives without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. There are no safeguards now in place or ever proposed that can prevent this tragically irreversible outcome.
Doctors misdiagnose and give incorrect prognoses, frequently. In the disability community, we have many members who have been given a terminal diagnosis, some since birth, some more than once. One Second Thoughts member, John Norton of Florence Massachusetts, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in his first year of college – in 1955. He was told he would die in 3 to 5 years.
As a very physical person, a high school athlete, John was devastated by the diagnosis. As he began to lose function, he wrote:
I became depressed and was treated for my depression. If instead, I had been told that my depression was rational and that I should take an easy way out with a doctor’s prescription and support, I would have taken that opportunity.