John Kelly: Assisted Suicide Laws and Bills are “Riddled with Falsehoods”

John Kelly

John Kelly

This article was published by Not Dead Yet on April 7, 2016.

On March 29, Not Dead Yet New England Regional Coordinator and Second Thoughts Massachusetts Director John Kelly testified against New Hampshire Bill SB426, which would establish an “end-of-life choices study commission.” Using the euphemisms of proponents like Compassion & Choices against the bill, John lists the ways in which the bill is “riddled with falsehoods.”

Excellent opposition testimony was also delivered by doctors Paul Saba and Richard Johnson, and former New Hampshire legislator Nancy Elliott. Below are excerpts from John’s testimony:

Chairman Rowe, Vice-Chairman Hagan, Members of the Committee:

. . . Please reject SB426 because it is riddled with falsehoods. From the words of the commission’s title to its enumerated duties, it’s clear that legalization proponents drafted the bill. It is a stalking horse for the legalization of assisted suicide.

The first falsehood is the phrase “end-of-life.” The committee should know that in current practice, the “end-of-life” is the six-month period following a physician’s terminal diagnosis. Yet of the millions of misdiagnoses every year, many are terminal misdiagnoses. We know this because of the thousands of people who “graduate” from hospice each year. …

Assisted suicide laws turn the best outcome under hospice – proving you weren’t terminal after all – into the worst possible end for people who might live months, years, or decades longer, but are instead persuaded (or coerced) under threat of agonizing death to commit suicide.

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John Kelly to California Governor Brown - Veto the assisted suicide bill

This message was originally published by Not Dead Yet.

Veto! Veto! Veto!

John Kelly

John Kelly

By now, most of you know that assisted suicide proponents ramrodded a bill through the California special session convened to work on the state’s Medicaid budget, after the bill was killed in the regular session. Too many legislators chose to ignore the documented record of abuses under the virtually identical Oregon and Washington laws. 

 John Kelly has put together the information on what you can do to stop this dangerous bill before it’s too late. And if you’re in need of inspiration and hope, look at what the disability community did to help defeat assisted suicide by a vote of 330 to 118 in the UK, in A Matter of Life and Death.

It’s time for Gov. Jerry Brown of California to veto assisted suicide bill AB2x 15, which passed the State Senate Friday, September 11. 

Governor Brown must veto a bill that tells old, ill, and disabled people that suicide is good for us. He must stop a bill that plays on our huge social inequalities to fully fund the only medical “choice” less well-to-do people and people of color never asked for. Suicide for certain people must never be declared a social benefit!

Now we have the chance to win an historic victory for social justice and disability rights.
So Many Ways We Can Help Stop Assisted Suicide

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John Kelly: Second Thoughts Against California Assisted Suicide Bill.

This letter was published by California Against Assisted Suicide on September 7, 2015.

John Kelly is the Director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

John Kelly is the Director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

Assembly member:

I hope you will have second thoughts about legalizing assisted suicide in California. Now especially that the California Medical Association secured the removal of any liability clause from  AB2x 15, in the words of the committee staff’s analysis (see page 17), “wanton misconduct” and “gross negligence” will go unpunished.

The replacement clause, that professional licensing boards “may sanction” professional misconduct, is toothless. As we have seen across society, self-interested institutions cannot be trusted to police themselves. Please see the case of Wendy Melcher, who was illegally injected with lethal drugs by two Oregon nurses, completely outside the scope of the law. The nurses were not referred for prosecution, but were secretly dealt with by the state nursing board. The nurses continue to practice today. 

In important ways assisted suicide laws are like death penalty laws: innocent people inevitably lose their lives. A strong consensus is now emerging against the death penalty because mistakes (witness misidentification, false confession) and abuse of the system (prosecutorial and police misconduct) lead to wrongful convictions and executions.

Mistakes and abuse in the medical system are common. People who are misdiagnosed (see John Norton), people who would respond to more treatment ( Jeanette Hall), or who would live years longer  (some participants in Oregon have lived almost 3 years after being judged “terminal”) will be led to tragically “choose” death. Assisted suicide programs have offered lethal drugs to patients with severe depression (Michael Freeland) and to people denied treatment (Barbara Wagner). And because not all families are loving or financially secure, innocent people will be bullied or worse by abusive families and beneficiaries.

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John Kelly (Second Thoughts) testimony opposing assisted suicide bill B21-38 in DC

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:

John Kelly

John Kelly

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.

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Disability rights leaders and cancer surviver opposes assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2015, 26 states have considered legislation to legalize assisted suicide and all of them have defeated that legislation. Disability rights groups, Not Dead Yet, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and Second Thoughts are successfully leading the opposition to assisted suicide.

An article by Danielle Ohl and published by McClatchy DC  examines one woman's experience with cancer while explaining why disability rights leaders oppose assisted suicide.

The article begins with Chastity Phillips, a woman who is living with chondrosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer, since 2002 and now has Lupus. Unlike Brittany Maynard, Phillips chose to be treated. From the story:

Doctors told Chasity Phillips in 2002 that she had a 50 percent chance of surviving surgery. 
Her choices were certain death, her doctors said, or surgery to remove part of the tumor. 
She chose the surgery. Still, the return of her cancer was likely. Doctors told her she would have six months to a year before it grew back, requiring more risky followups.  
But 13 years later, Phillips is 38 years old and thriving, despite two very severe medical conditions.

Phillips developed a healthy philosophy about her possible mortality:

“There’s a certain freedom that comes with dying,” said Phillips, who lives near New Orleans. “You really don’t have to deal with your annoying cousin. You really don’t have to go on that family trip. You can eat ice cream for breakfast.”

The article then examines the disability rights community opposition to assisted suicide

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Connecticut assisted suicide bill is likely dead

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

For the past three years, the assisted suicide lobby in Connecticut has introduced an assisted suicide bill, paid lobbyists to promote the bill, and then a coalition of people opposing assisted suicide successfully defeat the bill.

Disability right group, Second Thoughts Connecticut, in coalition with other groups working in a unified manner, such as the Family Institute of Connecticut, have defeated the assisted suicide bills in Connecticut three years in a row.

An article by Daniela Altimari in the Hartford Courant states that assisted suicide bill - HB 7015 has likely died in committee again. The article quotes Michael Culhane who explains how the bill was defeated.

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John Kelly: Say 'no' to assisted-suicide expansion in Oregon

This article was published by Oregonlive on March 17.

John Kelly, is a director of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet and founded Second Thoughts.

John Kelly

John Kelly

Even as the Oregon-based Death with Dignity National Center and other assisted suicide proponents continue to insist that "there have been no efforts to expand either (Oregon or Washington's) law beyond their strict guidelines," here comes House Bill 3337, which would stretch the meaning of terminal illness from six months to 12 months. 

Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide in part by highlighting so-called "safeguards" like the requirement that people have a "terminal disease" -- the prediction by two doctors that "within reasonable medical judgment" a person would die inside six months. But even at six months, the death knell of "terminal" was arbitrary and approximate. Studies have shown that 15 to 20 percent of the supposedly "terminally ill" outlive their prognosis, leading to our current situation whereby six-month hospice programs discharge 200,000 people yearly for living too long!

The Oregon Health Authority has participated in this "terminal" charade by not disclosing how many program participants lived longer than six months, giving instead a range of survival after the initial request for prescribed suicide. Nevertheless, every report this century has included someone who lived longer than a year -- one person living almost three years after first request. Under the new proposal, it is guaranteed that innocent people would lose years of their lives under the mistaken belief they were dying when they were not.

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