NO to Medically Assisted Suicide

by Joan Cavanagh, Second Thoughts Connecticut

“An Act Providing a Medical Option of Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Adults,” Proposed Bill No. 668, has been referred to the Judiciary Committee for the spring 2015 Connecticut state legislative session. It is being sponsored and promoted by some of our most progressive state legislators, including Gary Holder Winfield, Roland Lemar and Toni Walker.

It is imperative that we as their constituents and supporters on many other initiatives contact them immediately to demand that they withdraw their support for this legislation and work to defeat it.
Last month, Elaine Kolb clearly explained why the disability rights community is so opposed to this legislation. She described her painful fight for the necessary treatment and services to sustain her partner’s life as long as possible: “Patti Deak lived and died with dignity, with multiple disabilities, using a power wheelchair, hospital bed, Hoyer lift, hearing aids, and a ventilator… With cut-backs in so many essential services, the message behind assisted suicide is that death is cost-effective. For those of us in danger of being denied what we need to live, ‘Compassion and Choice’ feels more like ‘Contempt and Coercion’” (emphasis added).

I experienced such contempt and coercion while fighting for treatment for my elderly mother, Catherine (1922-2012), who suffered from vascular dementia and a severe heart condition. As her health care advocate, I was continually and repeatedly harassed, bullied and threatened by various health care professionals at Yale-New Haven Hospital to “let her die.” As a Medicare/Medicaid patient, she was costing them too much and her life was not valued. You can read the details of this experience at http://www.nhregister.com/opinion/20140304/forum-aid-in-dying-bill-neither-compassionate-nor-wise.
All this occurred in a state where medically assisted suicide is not yet legal. Whatever its language, such a bill cannot be tweaked or improved to be made safe or unthreatening to those of us who are physically, mentally and/or emotionally vulnerable. The potential for coercion and abuse, both by a health care system increasingly concerned with profit and, in some cases, by family and friends who are tired of the “burden” of care, is simply too great.

Joan Cavanagh is a member of Second Thoughts Connecticut and a long time peace and justice activist.

One comment

  • Dear Ms. Cavanagh,
    I am a student attending college in Idaho and I am writing a research paper on something that I would like to change. I am originally from Oregon and I know a lot about Oregon’s Death With Dignity act. I would like to point out that I am 100% in support of physician assisted suicide and I think that it is a completely justified and necessary option for terminally ill patients. I believe that assisted suicide should be made legal in all states based on the sole argument that it is the most respectful option for terminally ill patients. I understand that you have had personal experience due to the situation with your mother and I do not want to disrespect you in any way. I would like to point out that you do not see that assisted suicide has never been intended as a means to an end. The main purpose of it is that it provides terminally ill patients the option to end their lives peacefully so that they do not have to suffer. The medical community does not look at it as a way to cut down costs, and I am fairly certain that a medical doctor would not try to force you to “let your mother die.” If a doctor has ever said a comment like this, you need to keep in mind that that doctor does not have any authority over whether or not someone can take the lethal dose of medication. In the end it will always be the patient’s choice, and if this bill is eventually passed it will not effect how doctors treat their patients. A doctor cannot force a patient to take the medication. The only thing that would change would be that more patients would be given the option to end the suffering and agony of their terminal illness.

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