Connecticut Suicide Prevention Plan Includes Concerns About Disability & Assisted Suicide

This article was published on the Not Dead Yet website on November 18, 2015.

Stephen Mendelsohn

Stephen Mendelsohn

By Stephen Mendelsohn, a leader of the disability rights group Second Thoughts Connecticut

This is likely a first from the mainstream suicide prevention community: The Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB) recognizes that legalizing assisted suicide encourages people with disabilities to commit suicide. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the State of Connecticut Suicide Prevention Plan 2020 at p. 43, 44:

People with Chronic Health Conditions and Disabilities 
Living with chronic or terminal physical conditions can place significant stress on individuals and families. As with all challenges, individual responses will vary. Cancer, degenerative diseases of the nervous system, traumatic injuries of the central nervous system, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, chronic kidney disease, arthritis and asthma are known to elevate the risk of mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety disorders. 
In these situations, integrated medical and behavioral approaches are critical for regularly assessing for suicidality. Disability-specific risk factors include: a new disability or change in existing disability; difficulties navigating social and financial services; stress of chronic stigma and discrimination; loss or threat of loss of independent living; and institutionalization or hospitalization. 
Until recently, the CTSAB was considering assisted suicide of the terminally ill as a separate issue from suicide prevention. The active disability community in Connecticut, however, has been vocal on the need for suicide prevention services for people with disabilities. There may be unintended consequences of assisted suicide legislation on people with disabilities. Bill Peace (2012)** writes that “Many assume that disability is a fate worse than death. So we admire people with a disability who want to die, and we shake our collective heads in confusion when they want to live.” 
People with disabilities have a right to responsive suicide prevention services. The CTSAB intends to continue to explore the needs of the disability community for such services.

Link to the full article

Disability advocate: Abandoned, neglected and brokenhearted after Canadian Assisted Death decision

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
November 17 2015

Abandoned, Neglected, brokenhearted I am left crying myself to sleep” - What the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case has meant to me and many other Canadians.”

Dear Prime Minister

Steven Passmore with Steven Fletcher in 2009.

Steven Passmore with
Steven Fletcher in 2009.

When I was a child my family placed me in a “home” for kids like me – I had disabilities because of cerebral palsy. Over the course of my six years stay I felt totally abandoned by my family. One question would often fill my thoughts, “does anyone really care?” In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Carter, decriminalizing euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, I feel that same abandonment and again the question circles my mind after all these years – “does anyone really care?”

I have been abandoned by several key sectors of society -  among these are, the Canadian Supreme Court, the Canadian Government, Canadian Law, the Canadian Medical Association, the Church in Canada and the Canadian Media.

You may ask why a sense of abandonment and this would be my answer. These sectors were the pillars of society on which, I knew as a Canadian living with disabilities, I could depend upon to look after me, uphold my rights, to life, to support, care and protection.

Now with the Supreme Court decision in Carter, I have lost my confidence in these institutions to protect me. I was told recently, “Steven you should not go to the doctor alone – make sure you have someone to go with you.” So what am I left to do – who will hold my hand? The sense of abandonment, my sense of grief and disappointment is so palpable it is like a yoke on my shoulders. Where do I go now, to whom do I speak?

I want to live even though some people may not find my life worth living. I am grateful to all of the key sectors that I mentioned for the life I have had so far. But when the law allows physicians to kill patients and those with consciences are forced to kill or pressured out of medicine. When people who want to kill themselves are exulted in the media to the point where we change the law and the voice of those of us who wish to live is disregarded and silenced – what am I to think?

Over the last 25 years, I have spoken about three key issues facing people with disabilities, equality, value and acceptance. I have tried to communicate to all Canadians that these three things must be protected under Canadian law to keep us all safe. People like me have always known that we were just tolerated, not really accepted, had no value and no equality in the eyes of many Canadians. Society built us ramps to buildings but not to Canadian hearts.

Link to the full letter

California assisted suicide bill died a peaceful death

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

California assisted suicide bill SB 128 has died a peaceful death in the California House after Democrat legislators opposed it based on opposition from the disability community and the Latino community.

The assisted suicide lobby has organized more than 25 attempts to legalize assisted suicide in States this year with all of them failing. These campaigns were financed with the money raised by the assisted suicide lobby through the Brittany Maynard assisted suicide campaign last year.

Reuters news reported that Democratic Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, who is on the health committee, said his opposition stemmed from his background in healthcare.

To me it's not what healthcare is about 
For me to go back on everything I've done and give that option, so to speak, is something I'm not comfortable with.

Disability rights advocates united in opposition to SB 128. Anthony Orefice is one of many disability rights activists who are speaking up against the California assisted suicide bill. He and others are concerned that:

depression and incorrect prognoses may lead people with serious disabilities to end their lives prematurely.

Marilyn Golden, the senior policy analyst at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, argues that the assisted suicide bill poses "considerable dangers" to people with new disabilities who may have suicidal thoughts.

Link to the full article

Canadian Supreme Court condemns disabled people to death

By Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick (OBE)

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kevin Fitzpatrick

The Supreme Court of Canada judgment confirms what people with disabilities have always known – assisted suicide and euthanasia (AS/E) are fundamentally rooted in the most heinous discrimination against disabled people – discrimination to death.

The assisted suicide lobby in the UK, as in Canada today, has scorned this idea, without rationale. There are terrible purposes at work. The press to legalise assisted death only thinly veils the view that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living. 

The evidence is overwhelming and was, long before a Belgian government adviser angrily stated at a public debate in November 2013, that a man with no arms and no legs should want to die - and flaunted his ‘life’s mission’, to facilitate such wishes. We knew the root of his hatred is seeing disabled lives as worthless, to be disposed of at the point of a needle. When his doctor colleague openly linked Belgian euthanasia law with world over-population, Hannah Arendt’s words came back to haunt us: they do not want to share the Earth with us.

Arendt was speaking about Eichmann’s trial, as she reflected a truth: it was small steps taken in the late 19th century that were fostered, bolstered and implemented by doctors, leading to the program of euthanasia which ended in Auschwitz. Those steps included the application of the new branch of mathematics called statistics in connection with eugenics, the ends were catastrophic. Someone might have argued, once, that no-one could have foreseen such consequences. We have no such excuse today.

Link to the full article

Assisted Suicide is discriminatory, a violation of Americans with Disabilities Act

The Colorado assisted suicide bill was defeated in the Colorado Public Health and Human Services Committee on February 7 by a bipartisan 8 - 5 vote. The Colorado Independent published this article by the disability rights group Not Dead Yet: Assisted Suicide is discrimination, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. on February 6.

Not Dead Yet:

Legalized assisted suicide sets up a double standard: some people get suicide prevention while others get suicide assistance, and the difference between the two groups is the health status of the individual. This is blatant discrimination and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Disability is at the heart of the assisted suicide debate. Some people fear disability as a fate worse than death. Proponents of legalized assisted suicide are willing to treat lives ended through assisted suicide coercion and abuse as “acceptable losses” when balanced against their unwillingness to accept disability or responsibility for their own suicide.

Although intractable pain has been emphasized as the primary reason for enacting assisted suicide laws, the top five reasons Oregon doctors actually report for issuing lethal prescriptions are the “loss of autonomy” (89.9%), “less able to engage in activities” (87.4%), “loss of dignity” (83.8%), “loss of control of bodily functions” (58.7%) and “feelings of being a burden” (38.3%).(Death With Dignity Act Annual Reports, PDF download) These are disability issues.

Link to the full article