Stephen Drake: Don't buy into aid in dying

Stephen Drake

Stephen Drake

This article was published by the Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle on October 30, 2015 and republished on the Not Dead Yet website on October 31.

By Stephen Drake - Guest Essayist.

Stephen Drake is the research analyst for Not Dead Yet.

Recently, you’re hearing and reading a lot about “aid in dying” — a relatively new term that is increasingly used in place of “assisted suicide.” You’re also being told that the issues surrounding assisted suicide are simple, with the only objections coming from far-right Christian conservatives.

There are many nonreligious progressives who have actively opposed legalization of assisted suicide for many years. The organization I work for is a secular disability rights group formed 19 years ago to oppose legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Thirteen other national disability rights groups also oppose legalization – many of them for over a decade.

Legalized assisted suicide sets up a discriminatory policy toward suicide based on the health status of the person who wants to commit suicide. Young, healthy, nondisabled people’s suicides are treated as preventable tragedies, while old, ill and disabled people are seen as expressing autonomy and deserving assistance to make sure our suicides don’t fail.

Link to the full article

Statement of Not Dead Yet (USA) to Canadian Panel on Carter Case Decision

Submitted by

Diane Coleman, J.D., M.B.A., President/CEO

Stephen Drake, M.S., Research Analyst

Not Dead Yet

497 State Street Rochester, New York 14608 USA

October 14, 2015

This statement was originally published by Not Dead Yet on their website.

Executive Summary

Not Dead Yet is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people. Not Dead Yet helps organize and articulate opposition to these practices in the United States based on secular social justice arguments. Not Dead Yet also demands the equal protection of the law for the targets of so called “mercy killing” whose lives are seen as worth-less.

This submission to the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canadawill focus on the Panel’s “key issue” in Terms of Reference Section 3.2 (c): “Risks to individuals and society associated with physician-assisted dying.” We will discuss the evidence coming from Oregon, the earliest of the four U.S. states to legalize assisted suicide, and outline the concerns of the disability community.

Regardless of our abilities or disabilities, none of us should feel that we have to die to have dignity, that we have to die to be relieved of pain, or that we should die to stop burdening our families or society. The realities of assisted suicide implementation in Oregon and three other U.S. states demonstrate the urgency of limiting the harms done by the Canadian Supreme Court ruling.

With that goal, we have two recommendations:

Adopt the detailed Goals, Principles and Recommendations submitted by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD),[1] which demonstrate a well-informed, evidence based and reasoned approach to reducing the dangers that will inevitably flow from implementation of Carter v. Canada. In order to completely incorporate CCD’s recommendations, direct consultation with a representative of CCD in drafting the legislation is necessary.

Provide training, guidance and encouragement to law enforcement agencies to exercise their existing level of authority to prosecute physicians and others involved in an assisted suicide or euthanasia death, while allowing those prosecuted to defend themselves by proving that the guidelines submitted by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities were met.

Introduction

Not Dead Yet is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people. Not Dead Yet helps organize and articulate opposition to these practices in the United States based on secular social justice arguments. Not Dead Yet also demands the equal protection of the law for the targets of so called “mercy killing” whose lives are seen as worth-less.

This submission to the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada will focus on the Panel’s “key issue” in Terms of Reference Section 3.2 (c): “Risks to individuals and society associated with physician-assisted dying.”

Link to the full article

Disability Activists Urge Princeton University to Denounce Professor Peter Singer’s Comments and Call for His Resignation

This Press Release was published on the Not Dead Yet website.
[For a PDF formatted version of this press release, go here.]
Princeton, NJ (PRWEB) June 09, 2015

Disability rights activists from Pennsylvania Not Dead Yet and New Jersey centers for independent living, as well as groups representing parents of people with disabilities, will be marching to Princeton University and holding a protest on June 10, 2015. Activists want Princeton to publicly denounce recent statements by Professor Peter Singer, promoting ending the lives of disabled infants through denial of health care, and for Princeton to take other steps to address what the activists describe as Singer’s “hate speech” toward disabled people.

“Since about 1980, Singer has promoted public policy that would legalize the killing of disabled infants in the first month of life,” said Stephen Drake, Not Dead Yet’s research analyst and expert on Singer. “More recently, he has expanded his position in the context of health care rationing.”

In 2009, the New York Times Magazine published an article by Singer titled ‘Why We Must Ration Health Care.’ In the article Singer spoke hypothetically of assigning a life with quadriplegia as roughly half that of a life without any disability at all. On this basis, Singer laid out a case for denying health care to people with significant disabilities on the basis that these lives have less value than the lives of nondisabled people. A response signed by 20 disability rights organizations was submitted to the magazine, criticizing the decision to seek out Singer as an analyst of healthcare and for the specific content of the article.

“This was probably Peter Singer’s most direct assault on the value of the lives of people with physical disabilities past the age of infancy,” said Drake.

On April 26, 2015 on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” Singer again rationalized the killing of disabled infants. Three days later, the National Council on Disability, a council appointed by the U.S. President to provide advice on disability policy, issued a press statement on Singer’s comments during the show. According to the NCD release:

Singer told Klein that health care rationing is already happening, and surmised that hospitals routinely make decisions not based on need, but rather on cost. He then used the presumed practice to rationalize the killing of disabled infants by arguing in support of “non-voluntary euthanasia” for human beings who Singer contends are not capable of understanding the choice between life and death, including “severely disabled infants, and people who through accident, illness, or old age have permanently lost the capacity to understand the issue involved.”

In addition, Not Dead Yet issued a petition to Princeton through change.org.

“We understand the importance of academic freedom,” said Alan Holdsworth of Not Dead Yet Pennsylvania. “But Princeton has a policy on ‘Respect for Others’ which ‘deplores expressions of hatred directed against any individual or group.’ If Singer’s comments about killing disabled babies don’t qualify as hatred toward a group, then I don’t know what does.”

Protesters are demanding that Princeton take four actions to address Singer’s comments:

  • Call for Singer’s resignation.
  • Publicly denounce Singer’s comments.
  • Hire a bioethicist from the disability community in a comparable position to provide a platform for views that contrast with his.
  • Create a disability policy program at Princeton to educate future leaders on an inclusive community.

Why disability rights advocates oppose assisted suicide

By Diane Coleman, President of the disability rights group - Not Dead Yet.

Diane Coleman

Diane Coleman

This past Monday, the Syracuse Post Standard published an op-ed I wrote that gives a bit of the history behind the position that so many national disability groups have taken in opposing assisted suicide laws. Our position often surprises people because we are also such strong supporters of self-determination by people with disabilities, but we also oppose discrimination, especially medical discrimination. Here’s part of the discussion:

Those of us with serious disabilities have good reasons to be skeptical about the mantra of choice being used to market assisted suicide in our profit-driven health care system. Anyone could ask for assisted suicide, but the law gives doctors the authority to decide who is eligible. 
Doctors used to exercise near-total control over the lives of people like me with significant disabilities, discouraging parents from raising such children at home, sentencing us to institutions, and imposing their own ideas about what medical procedures would improve our lives. 
Disability groups started paying attention to the problem of doctors making life and death determinations in the 1980s in high-profile court cases involving the right to refuse treatment. One involved Elizabeth Bouvia, a 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who had a miscarriage and marriage breakup and wanted a hospital to make her comfortable while she starved herself to death. Other cases involved men on ventilators stuck in nursing facilities like Larry McAfee, who wanted the right to live in apartments or real homes, or else “pull the plug.” The doctors, courts, media and public all viewed these severely disabled individuals as the equivalent of terminally ill. They did not get suicide prevention equal to that offered non-disabled people, nor the right to live in real homes instead of facilities, but courts uniformly granted them a “right to die.” 
Then the 1990s brought Dr. Jack Kevorkian, conducting assisted suicides using lethal drugs, with two thirds of his body count being people who were not terminally ill. As before, the difference between being disabled and dying was not recognized or considered relevant. As before, the difficulties disabled individuals faced in living – community access, getting a job, getting married – were not considered, or worse, accepted as rationales for ending their lives.

To read the whole op-ed, go here. We were told that the piece would also appear in the print edition sometime this past week. And there are a number of comments, including two from me and two from Stephen Drake in response to others.

“New Scientist” Reporter Goes Over Oregon Assisted Suicide Data with NDY’s Diane Coleman

This article was published by Not Dead Yet on February 26, 2015

By Stephen Drake, researcher for Not Dead Yet.

Diane Coleman

Diane Coleman

A newly-published article in New Scientist includes a section in which reporter Clare Wilson reports on actual Oregon data on assisted suicide after a go-through with NDY CEO and founder Diane Coleman. It’s rare – almost unheard of – for a reporter to go into this kind of detail on assisted suicide in Oregon. The same is true of bioethicists weighing in on the topic. Here’s the section of the article dealing with data in "2015 a watershed year for assisted suicide in the US":

Diane Coleman, head of advocacy group Not Dead Yet, which opposes assisted suicide, says the Oregon Health Authority’s annual reports on the practice show the law there isn’t working as intended. She points to the motives people gave for choosing this option. According to the latest figures, released on 12 February, only a third of people who took a prescribed lethal dose of medication in 2014 cited pain or fear of pain as one of the reasons for doing so. 
Supporters of assisted suicide often cite pain as a primary reason why people should have the legal right to die. But the state’s report showed that people’s concerns tended toward loss of autonomy (91 per cent), loss of dignity (71 per cent) or being a burden on their family (40 per cent). Coleman is particularly concerned that people are choosing assisted suicide because they feel they are a burden. “To me that feels more like a duty to die than a choice to die,” she says.

Link to the full article

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: 2014 year in review.

Euthanasia - We can live without

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2014 there were many great articles opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Here are some of the key articles published from different perspectives in 2014.

People with disabilities oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.
●  January, Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Not Dead Yet UK and the new Director of EPC International wrote an article - Legalizing euthanasia threatens people with disabilities

●  In February, Stephen Drake, the researcher for Not Dead Yet explained how the New Hampshire assisted suicide bill definition of "Terminal Condition" was broad enough to include anyone with a chronic condition.

●  In April, Jim Derksen, a founder of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities wrote an about euthanasia and eugenics - Not Dead Yet.

●  In June, John Kelly, from Second Thoughts wrote - Assisted Suicide: Just Too Dangerous.

●  In July, Baroness Jane Campbell from the UK wrote - Assisted Suicide could lure me to the grave.

●  In October Catherine Frazee wrote - Assisted suicide debate masks disability prejudice.

●  In November, Marilyn Golden from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund wrote -Assisted Suicide is Bad Medicine.

Depression, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

Link to the full article.

America's Dr Death loses medical license.

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Lawrence Egbert

Lawrence Egbert, a leader of the Final Exit Network, has lost his medical license in Maryland.

After a two year review, the Maryland Board of Physicians revoked his medical license after deciding that Egbert's actions were unethical and illegal. Egbert has said that he plans to appeal.

An article in the Baltimore Sun stated:

A Baltimore anesthesiologist who made national news as "The New Doctor Death" held six elderly Marylanders' hands as they asphyxiated themselves with helium and covered up the suicides after they died, according to a state order filed this month stripping him of his medical license. 
The suicides are among nearly 300 Lawrence D. Egbert said he helped arrange across the country as an "exit guide" for right-to-die group Final Exit Network. He and several colleagues were arrested in 2009 amid an undercover investigation in Georgia, but he avoided any punishment there or in another case in Arizona. He awaits trial for assisting in a suicide in Minnesota

Stephen Drake, an expert on the Final Exit Network and the research analyst for the disability rights group Not Dead Yet told the Baltimore Sun:

Link to the full article.