California Assisted Suicide Law is Denounced by Leading Disability Rights Policy Center

The following media release was originally sent out on June 7, 2016.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marilyn Golden, 
Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
(510) 549-9339  mgolden@dredf.org

DREDF.jpg

Announces national web resource for reporting abuses and other problems

Berkeley, CA – June 7, 2016 – The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, a leading national disability rights law and policy center based in Berkeley, California, denounces the enactment of California’s End of Life Option Act, which goes into effect on June 9.

DREDF is pleased to announce, along with our coalition partners in Californians Against Assisted Suicide, that this week, the national organization Patients Rights Action Fund will launch a new web page where concerned individuals, family members, and friends can bring to light abuses, problems, and complications associated with assisted suicide laws. The new online resource is located athttp://patientsrightsaction.org/stories.

California’s assisted suicide law, which is modeled on Oregon’s law, is marked by extraordinarily weak safeguards and oversight, posing great danger to many Californians with disabilities. as well as people with chronic and terminal illnesses, lower-income Californians, and to the general public.

Link to the full article

Not Dead Yet Activists protest Me Before You in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Metro news published an excellent report on the Not Dead Yet protest of the movie Me Before You. The Metro wrote (this article was edited for length):

A new Hollywood film depicting a romance between a quadriplegic and his caretaker that ends in the man choosing suicide over life in a wheelchair is being denounced by the disabled community. 
Two dozen activists with disabilities and their supporters protested outside a South Philadelphia movie theater Monday against the film "Me Before You," calling it "poisonous" and saying it could encourage suicide among people with disabilities. 
“As of Saturday, June 4, I have lived with a spinal cord injury for 15 years,” said activist German Parodi, 32, who uses a wheelchair and became disabled after he was shot in the throat during a carjacking. “There’s no reason for us to kill ourselves.” 
The activists in Philly sang and chanted for more than an hour outside the UA Riverview 17, one of two theaters in the city that is showing the film. They were affiliated with Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group that is organizing protests nationwide and protested the film’s red-carpet premiere in Hollywood. 
For those participating in the protest, the story of the film is a painful parallel to their own experiences. 
“I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts,” said Anomie Fatale, 28, a musician and performer who became disabled at 20 due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. “Putting that out there in the mainstream is dangerous. … It could kill someone.” 
Fatale said she has quadriparesis, severe muscle weakness affecting all four limbs. 
“You are suggesting, romanticizing, glorifying, encouraging suicide. That is a thing I can’t be okay with,” Fatale said. “I’m worried about young, impressionable teenagers. I want to put the right message out there.” 
Director Thea Sharrock recently defended the film against the criticisms of ableism, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I didn’t quite anticipate this” and that the criticisms arose from “a fundamental misunderstanding of what the message is.”
Activists said the film barely portrays any characters who disagree with the protagonist’s decision to end his life in Switzerland at ..., a real assisted suicide organization. 
“There is product placement for an assisted suicide organization in this film,” said Clark Matthews, 34, a filmmaker who uses a wheelchair. “Can you name the last romantic film with a disabled protagonist? The first one in decades, and of course he kills himself.” 
There is also no depiction in the film of the community of people with disabilities, which activists credited with helping them live their own lives. 
“In the past five years, I started meeting other people with disabilities. I stopped feeling ashamed. These people made me feel like I’m not a burden,” said Liam Dougherty, 26, who uses a wheelchair due to Friedreich's ataxia, a progressive neural disorder. 
“It’s a road I could have gone down,” Dougherty said of the story depicted in the film. “I’m so glad I have a supportive organization that made me realize I shouldn’t have gone down that path.”

Congratulations to the NDY activists in Philadelphia who effectively got their message out.

People with disabilities comment on Me Before You

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Me Before You has become one of the controversial films of the decade, with protests, boycotts and many articles about the film. Not Dead Yet organized protests outside movie theaters, EPC asked its supporters to boycott the film in order to not give the makers of this movie our hard earned cash, nonetheless, the clearest voices have been disability leaders.

John Kelly, the New England Regional Director for Not Dead Yet, who has read the book, was reported by the New Boston Post as saying:

“After a new injury, people are very vulnerable, because suddenly you become part of a marginalized group,” And in terms of the film, “Only a disabled character could have their suicide presented as noble. Imagine if another character in the movie had killed themselves based on their own internalized depression.” 
“People happily cry over people like me killing ourselves,” 
“Where are the films where he changes his mind and they live happily ever after?”

Link to the full article
 

Kevin Yuill: Me Before You is fiction, but so are most arguments for assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill, a history professor at Sunderland University, wrote an excellent article that was published in the Telegraph today. Yuill's argues that Me Before You is simply one of many fictional stories about assisted suicide, but then he also states that arguments supporting assisted suicide are also fictionally based. Yuill writes:

There is an outbreak of fictional assisted suicides, of which the film released this week, Me Before You, is simply the most recent example. Before, we had Million Dollar Baby, The Sea Inside, One True Thing, and episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Coronation Street, and Hollyoaks. Such a plot-device is neither new nor "taboo-busting" – that taboo has been well and truly busted. 
It is interesting that the case for assisted suicide exists more in the fevered imagination of authors and screenwriters than in reality. Only a handful of Britons kill themselves in Swiss assisted suicide clinics every year; the rate of fictional representations to people actually killing themselves in Switzerland must be nearly 1:1. But Me Before You has sparked protests, mostly from disabled groups, because it implicitly asks the question: If you were quadriplegic (or severely disabled), would/should you kill yourself? 
Of course, the film is fiction and not particularly imaginative fiction at that, but there is a real context to the unease of groups of disabled activists like Not Dead Yet who have protested outside cinemas.

Yuill outlines some of the information from his book: Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization (2015) 

The whole case for assisted suicide is fictional. Rather than empathy, it is based on anxiety in the worried well. “I’d rather die than suffer like you do”, some actually say out loud to disabled people, who, in my experience are a feisty lot who enjoy (and all too often must fight for) their lives. There are real disabled lives – and there is the narcissistic projection of gloomy imaginings onto the disabled. 

Link to the full article

Action Alert: Protest Disability Snuff Film “Me Before You”!


ACTION ALERT: 

PROTEST DISABILITY SNUFF FILM ME BEFORE YOU! 

WHEN: JUNE 3, 2016, 0NE HOUR BEFORE A SHOWING OF ME BEFORE YOU
WHERE: YOUR LOCAL MOVIE THEATER, MANY CITIES, USA & WORLDWIDE
WHAT: PEACEFULLY DISTRIBUTE A LEAFLET (TO BE POSTED ON NDY WEBSITE) 
WHY: TO OPPOSE ABLEISM & THE FILM’S MESSAGE THAT DISABLED PEOPLE ARE
BETTER OFF DEAD (AND OTHERS ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT US) 

“Me Before You” is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to grossly misrepresent the lived experience of the majority of disabled people. In the film, a young man becomes disabled, falls in love with his ‘carer’ and they have an incredible 6 months together. Despite her opposition, however, our hero does the “honorable” thing by killing himself at the Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas – so she can move on and he is no longer a burden to her. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, “Me Before You” is little more than a disability snuff film, giving audiences the message that if you’re a disabled person, you’re better off dead. 

WAYS YOU CAN PROTEST:

  • Two or more people can peacefully hand out a leaflet that will be posted on the Not Dead Yet website at notdeadyet.org
  • Send a press release or use NDY’s release (coming soon) to send to your local media. 
  • Join the worldwide social media Thunderclap
  • Twitter using #MeBeforeYou #LiveBoldly #MeBeforeEuthanasia #MeBeforeAbleism 
  • Share the articles linked below with friends and colleagues. 

For more information, see the following articles: 

For More Information or to discuss your plans, contact John Kelly (jkelly@notdeadyet.org) or Diane Coleman (dcoleman@notdeadyet.org).

Boycott - Me Before You - "disability death porn."

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The movie - Me Before You will be released in theatres across North America on June 3.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is urging its supporters to boycott Me Before You to not give any money to the production of movies that perpetuate the ideology that death is better than living with a disability.

We also urge our supporters to donate the admission price to either: Not Dead Yet (donation), Not Dead Yet UK (donation), Toujours Vivant - Not Dead Yet (donate through the Council of Canadians with Disabilities) or the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (donation).

This is not a campaign to obstruct free speech, this is a campaign to oppose the "disability death porn" that this movie promotes.

In the Me Before You plot (Will Traynor) a man who was paralysed in an accident, decides to die by assisted suicide at a Swiss suicide clinic. His family, who are incredibly wealthy, hire Louisa Clark, as his care-giver. 

As the story progresses, Clark falls in love with Traynor, but Traynor has decided that death is better than living with a disability. Traynor dies by assisted suicide in Switzerland and of course he loves Clark so much, that he leaves her an inheritance.

What is most insidious about the movie is that Traynor’s suicide is sold as an act of love. For me that borders on what I call “disability death porn.”

People with disabilities are fighting for social and attitudinal change. Me Before You perpetuates the idea, that death is better than living with a disability.

To understand the disability perspective, I urge you to read the comments by people with disabilities concerning Me Before You.

Link to the full article

Thank you to NH House of Representatives for Defeating SB426

Nancy Elliott, Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) USA

Nancy Elliott

Nancy Elliott

The New Hampshire House of Representatives recently defeated SB426, a bill to study Assisted Suicide Euthanasia. It was a surprising defeat. 

EPC USA had worked closely with advocates in New Hampshire since the bill was first filed in the Senate. EPC USA and our allies educated the public and legislators on the dangers of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, including discrimination against the disabled, elderly, and ill who are encouraged to commit suicide while the young and healthy get suicide prevention. 

The bill's proponents had called for a Commission to Study End of Life Options, particularly "Aid in Dying," but bill sponsor Senator Kelly admitted at the Senate hearing that the real target was Assisted Suicide. 

Not only, then, was this commission clearly a showcase for Assisted Suicide, the proposed commissioners were loaded with activists likely to support this radical measure. While the commission claimed it would listen to stakeholders, people who would be affected by the proposed legislation, the commission would not even have had a single representative from a disability community group or seniors group. These are the two communities in the crosshairs of this type of legislation. 

Nonetheless, the bill had come out of the Judiciary Committee with the recommendation of Ought to Pass with Amendment. 

In the House Judiciary Committee hearing, John Kelly, regional director of disability community group Not Dead Yet, advocated for the rights of the disabled and elderly. Dr. Richard Johnson of New Hampshire and Dr. Paul Saba of Physicians for Social Justice, based in Montreal, testified that doctors make mistakes, and with treatment many of these people could live for years to come. 

EPC USA's coalition members worked in the Senate and the House to educate legislators on the dangers of SB426. And at the last minute, NH House members secured enough votes to soundly reject this idea on the House floor. 

Passing this bill would not have implemented Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia, but it would have put us closer to it. And even the unbalanced commission would have created some appearance of legitimacy for any bill they pushed, no matter how radical. This is a great win for our New Hampshire advocates, EPC USA, and the citizens of New Hampshire. 

For more information on this bill (Link).