New York NDY Activists Occupied Pro-Assisted Suicide Press Conference

This article was published on the Not Dead Yet website on May 12, 2016.

On Tuesday, May 10th, two van loads of disability rights activists from the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, NY joined with center for independent living advocates from across the state to oppose bills that would legalize assisted suicide.

The activists began by occupying a pro-assisted suicide press conference room, wearing hot pink tshirts and signs that could not be ignored, as reported by NY State of Politics in the following excerpt:

Still, the press conference on Tuesday on the third floor of the Capitol outside of the Senate chambers was attended by opponents of the legislation. Clad in neon pink t-shirts from a coalition of disability rights groups called Not Dead Yet, critics of aid-in-dying policies say it could lead to the cheaper alternative of ending the life of a vulnerable patient rather than caring for them. 
“The bill doesn’t account for that,” said Todd Vaarwerk, a Buffalo resident. “The bill says OK, you can affirmatively do this. We believe people with disabilities will be the primary people affected by this legislation and we’ve got years of evidence to support that.”

The activists also delivered their message outside legislative chambers, as shown in photos.

A local television station in Rochester followed up by interviewing CDR’s Director of Advocacy, Stephanie Woodward, on video for broadcast on May 11.

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.

Link to the full article

Diane Coleman: Opposing the New York assisted suicide bill

This article represents one side of the debate between Diane Coleman, the founder of the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet and Dr Timothy Quill, a long-time supporter of assisted suicide that waspublished in the Democrat and Chronicle on February 18, 2016.

Diane Coleman: Opposing the aid in dying bill

“I think there is a very strong alliance of different segments of society that are really concerned about the danger of legalizing assisted suicide from the culture we have today,” Coleman said. “Policy makers have to really consider not only the idealized case that proponents put forward on assisted suicide but the real danger that affects so many elderly, ill and disabled people in this society and be sure that the protection that current law offers are still in place to benefit everyone.”

What are the main concerns of people who are opposed to aid-in-dying legislation?

I don’t think I speak for all (opponents), but the disability community's core message is that if assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be lost due to mistakes, coercion and abuse, and that’s an outcome that can never be undone. 
There’s inherent discrimination in assisted-suicide laws. Most suicidal people receive suicide prevention. Assisted suicide laws would carve out an exception to that, and that exception would apply to people who are elderly, ill, disabled, and those are devalued groups in society. ... Assisted-suicide laws would say, 'these certain people, we’ll not only agree with their suicide but give them the means to carry it out.' We’re saying it comes down to social justice. Equal rights means equal suicide prevention.

Isn’t this a matter of the individual’s right to choose?

We agree that people have the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. We do think it’s important that that be based on informed consent, that there be protections against health care providers that overrule people who want treatment. We’re also concerned about (a health care proxy) decision being based on the choice of what the person would want if the person were able to speak for themselves. 
You should have the choice to get all the pain relief that you need in order to not have any physical pain. You should have the choice to get all the home care you need so you don’t have to feel like a burden on your family or friends. 
People do have the choice to commit suicide because suicide and assisted suicide are not exactly the same. It’s the discrimination that’s inherent in assisted suicide that is our concern. But assisted suicide needs to remain illegal because of all the dangers the public policy of assisted-suicide creates of mistake, coercion and abuse. We think everyone deserves suicide prevention no matter how old, no matter how ill, no matter how disabled.

Link to the full article

'Medical aid in Dying' in Québec is Euthanasia

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In his decision on December 1, Justice Michel Pinsonnault of the Québec Superior Court stopped the Québec euthanasia law from coming into effect on December 10. The case was launched by the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice which sought to obtain an injunction and to declare that the Québec law is unconstitutional.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) intervened in the case.

According to the National Post:

The judge noted that last February’s Supreme Court of Canada decision striking down a federal ban on assisted suicide gave Ottawa and the provinces a year to prepare new legislation before the Criminal Code provisions in question become invalid. 
Pinsonnault ruled that as long as those provisions are on the books — and it is expected Ottawa will request an extension to the Feb. 6 deadline — a Quebec physician administering euthanasia under the provincial law would be committing a crime. He ordered the suspension of the articles of the Quebec law concerning euthanasia until the Criminal Code is changed.

Paul Saba, the leader of Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, and Lisa D’Amico, a woman with a disability, brought the suit. But the federal attorney general “intervened on their side, arguing that application of the Quebec law should be suspended until the Criminal Code is amended,” the National Post reported.

The Québec government reacted to the judgement by declaring that they will appeal the decision. The government suggested that the judge made an error when finding that ‘medical aid in dying’ constitutes euthanasia.

Link to the full article

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

Subversive Strategies to Sell Assisted Suicide

By Dr Jacqueline Harvey

Dr Jacqueline Harvey

Dr Jacqueline Harvey

The numbers don’t lie. In spite of masterful public relations campaigns to suggest otherwise, the assisted suicide movement has an abysmal record trying to legalize assisted self-destruction over the last 21 years. The suicide lobby has few victories to claim. Rather, they consistently fail at each of the strategies they employ to push their agenda. Lawmakers fail to pass assisted suicide bills 99% of the time, after lawmakers are educated of the dangers at public hearings. Ballot initiatives fail in nearly three-quarters of cases to win enough votes, even after propaganda campaigns with no public hearings. Even attempts to subvert lawmakers and voters altogether by courting judges to legislate from the bench have yielded few returns. 

Bolstered by deep pockets and a sympathetic media, we are led to believe that the assisted suicide movement is winning, when the track record shows overwhelming political failure spanning three decades. 

Nowhere is it more clear how lethal education and scientific evidence are to the suicide lobby than by examining how many assisted suicide bills withstand the scrutiny of witness testimony. Since 1994,175 bills have been introduced in 35 states and the District of Columbia and thus far, only one has prevailed. Vermont is the anomaly, the lone bill, passed in 2013 after 19 years of failed attempts to convince legislators, a success rate of .057%. Assisted suicide is an established loser with lawmakers, failing more than 99% of the time in statehouses in over 20 years. Death making does not fare well when subjected to public debate. Thus far in 2015, 25 states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation and most bills met their demise, by either lacking support to advance, devastated by testimony and withdrawn to address concerns or simply to spare a humiliating death. A few a late-filed bills still linger after failing to launch, but are unlikely to persevere through the process or manifest as an amendment to still-viable legislation. 

A team of assisted suicide lobbyists are attempting to resurrect California’s Senate Bill SB128 through a procedural ploy that subverts the committee that rejected it and placing it on the floor for a vote, in an affront to the legislative process but in keeping with the suicide lobby’s inability to legitimately pass bills and blatant overall lack of regard for law-making and public will. They routinely circumvent lawmakers to exploit voters, and even disregard both lawmakers and voters to forcibly impose their will through the courts due to an inability to pass assisted suicide through legitimate means. Only one bill has yet prevailed at all through the legislature. A record of 1 in 175 is evidence that assisted suicide is too illegitimate an act to obtain legitimate support. 

Attempts to comfort lawmakers ill-at-ease after hearing testimony about the abuses and dangers of assisted suicide are not persuasive. Rather than address the evidence from testimony which gives lawmakers reservations, the suicide lobby have decided to create lawmakers out of the uniformed voter through ballot initiatives that do not require public hearings. Assisted suicide advocates have frequently appealed to the voters who are not informed by testimony and could be swayed by emotion and deceived by sanitized language designed to manipulate their vote.

Link to the full article

Selling assisted suicide in California. Wordplay is not enough

This article was published by the National Review online on May 20, 2015.

By Dr Jacqueline Harvey

Jacqueline Harvey

Jacqueline Harvey

Suicide is hard to sell. After 23 years of failed attempts to legalize assisted suicide in California, lawmakers and lobbyists may have finally found a strategy that works: They just won’t call it suicide. And on the death certificate, they’ll simply lie.

Entitled the “End of Life Option Act,” California Senate Bill 128 mandates that “the cause of death listed on an individual’s death certificate who uses aid-in-dying medication shall be the underlying terminal illness,” not the lethal dose of poison that actually caused the individual’s death. Advocates of assisted suicide coined the term “aid in dying” and concocted the rationalization that killing oneself does not qualify as suicide if you have a life expectancy of six months or less. Yet it appears that it is not palatable enough to list the preferred misnomer, “aid in dying,” as the cause of death and that the only way lawmakers and lobbyists feel they can sell self-destruction is to falsify public records. 

Suicide, Stigma, and Branding

In 1992, California became the second state to place the assisted-suicide issue directly before the voters, a year after a similar ballot initiative was defeated in Washington State (but two years before an initiative narrowly passed in Oregon). In these early case studies on the power of wordplay, assisted-suicide proponents found that the word “suicide” was deadly to their cause. People recoil from it. Polls show that support for assisted suicide decreases by as much as 20 points when the word “suicide” is used, even though the substance of the question being asked remains unchanged. When we consider that California Proposition 161 failed by a margin of 54 to 46, it is clear how important semantics are.

Link to the full article