by Joan Cavanagh, Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide
Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide held a speak-out at the New Haven Free Public Library on October 2nd about legislation allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs for patients deemed terminally ill. Featured speakers were Anita Cameron, Director for Minority Out-reach at Not Dead Yet, a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination, and Dr. Andre N. Sofair, Professor of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and a practitioner of Internal Medicine.
“The people that are wanting this are largely upper-middle-class professional folks and largely white,” said Ms. Cameron. “If you are poor, it’s easier [less expensive] to kill you than give you health care.” Her comprehensive presentation included her mother’s story. She “graduated” from hospice in 2009 and lived actively for 12 more years. In her state (Washington), medical assisted suicide is legal: “All she would have had to do was ask and she’d have been given the medication because she was deemed terminal.”
Dr. Sofair agreed with Cameron that “we doctors are not always as accurate in terms of [terminal] prognosis as we think we are.” Sympathetic to those who fear pain when seriously ill, he said that “this calls for improvements in medical care, palliative care and hospice care when needed,” not assisted suicide. “Purported safeguards” in states where the practice is legal “do not always work” and often do not help people “get the appropriate medical care that they need.”
“For many of us, [these issues] are profoundly personal and, in terms of political and social realities, absolutely terrifying,” said New Haven activist Elaine Kolb, who concluded the program with a spirited full rendition of her acclaimed song, “Not Dead Yet.”
Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide was formed by peace, justice, and disability rights activists; advocates for comprehensive, universal health care; and supporters of women’s reproductive rights. They believe that it is time for progressives to understand that state-sanctioned medical assisted suicide is an existential threat to the most vulnerable members of our population.