The Myopia of Medical Assisted Suicide

by Joan Cavanagh, member, Second Thoughts CT

“In Austin, Texas, at a ‘You Can’t Close America!’ rally, hundreds of demonstrators, nearly all-white, defied social-distancing guidelines by gathering on the steps of the Capitol…A woman wearing a Keep America Great cap waved a sign reading, ‘My Life, My Death, My Choice, Personal Responsibility…‘” [bold emphasis added.]

See Linda Villarosa, “Who Lives? Who Dies? How COVID-19 has revealed the deadly realities of a racially polarized America,” New York Times Magazine, May 3, 2020, p. 50.

“My life, my death, my choice” is the slogan of Compassion and Choices, the national organization devoted to promoting Medical Assisted Suicide (MAS). That it found its way to a Trump-supporting super-spreader event is not surprising, since the implication is that individual behavior has no impact on the lives of others. One of many reasons to oppose MAS is because the premise of these bills is the same.

“Death with dignity” is a phrase often used by MAS proponents, suggesting that the level of care required by many who are disabled, elderly, or very ill somehow demeans them and is a burden on others and on society. This is a fundamental denial of our human connection and responsibility to and for one another.

Even more insidious, Medical Assisted Suicide can easily morph into treatment-rationing for patients whose health care is deemed too expensive for hospitals and insurance companies to sustain. The COVID crisis has dramatically revealed the ways in which poor, disabled, elderly, black and brown people are already discriminated against within the medical system.

Its advocates argue that MAS is intended only for those with a “terminal illness.” But definitions of what is “terminal” are fluid and subjective, life expectancy projections often mistaken. Treatment (or lack thereof) is too often determined by what a patient’s insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, will and will not cover. Many diseases are “terminal” if left untreated. Allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication offers a cost-effective “out” for insurers.

While it may provide an individual “choice” for a select few, among its many evils the legalization of Medical Assisted Suicide also opens the door to increased limitations on health care, which is an existential threat to the many. Please tell your state representatives to vote “No” on HB 6425, now pending in the Public Health Committee.

Changes at the Labor History Association

by Joan Cavanagh, Archivist/Director, GNH Labor History Assoc.

2016 is a year of transition for the Greater New Haven Labor History Association. As of Dec. 31, I will be leaving my position as Archivist/ Director because there is no further funding available to maintain it. LHA will return to its roots as an all-volunteer organization, guided by the efforts of its Executive Board and membership.

To prepare for this change, I am spending this fall organizing our archival holdings (including the historical records of LHA) for transfer to Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UConn in Storrs. They are establishing a Greater New Haven Labor History Association Collection. The materials we have already gathered will thus be preserved in a climate controlled facility and made available to researchers by UConn’s archivists. We encourage individuals, union locals and other relevant organizations to donate their papers, memorabilia and historical documents to the Collection. Contact Laura Katz Smith at laura.katz.smith@uconn.edu or (860) 486-2516 for information about it.

On a personal note: it has been my privilege and joy to work with the Board and the members of the Labor History Association for the past 16 years. We brought LHA into the 21st century along with its mission to collect, preserve, share and celebrate the history, culture and traditions of working people and their unions in our community and beyond.

Moving forward, LHA will help to ensure that current and future generations understand the heritage and struggles of workers through the creation of a labor history curriculum for Connecticut’s public schools as well as by carrying out other projects spearheaded by the Board and our membership. Please, get involved. If you haven’t yet become a member, please do. If you’re already a member, please consider joining the Board or a project committee. And, if you have a special project you’ve always wanted to see the organization undertake, now’s the time! Remember: We Are All Workers! (P.S. Check out the LHA exhibit on Winchester workers, now showing at Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven until Nov. 15, and on line at http://exhibits.winchesterworkers.gnhlha.org.)

For a picture of Joan Cavanagh, director of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, with Craig Gauthier, former president of Local 609 of the International Association of Machinists, visit the link below. They are holding one of the panels of an exhibit on Olin-Winchester labor history, outside Wells Fargo Bank in New Haven visit the link below

: Randall Beach: Winchester exhibit evokes New Haven era of union, community solidarity