Disability Opposition to Assisted Suicide Bills Helped Secure Third Defeat in New England States This Session

Disability advocates from Second Thoughts Connecticut and national Not Dead Yet celebrated Friday as the Connecticut legislature rejected assisted suicide legislation, when a bill to legalize assisted suicide bill died in the Public Health Committee. A week earlier, a similar bill died in the Massachusetts Joint Committee On Public Health and, earlier this spring, New Hampshire overwhelmingly rejected an assisted suicide bill by a vote of 219-66.

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John Kelly, Director of Second Thoughts

It’s a clean sweep. Throughout New England, assisted suicide proponents simply had no answers to the arguments raised by disability rights advocates.

Boston, MA (PRWEB) March 31, 2014

On Friday, it became official: for the second consecutive year, the Connecticut legislature rejected assisted suicide legislation. Disability advocates celebrated as the state’s Public Health Committee, like the Massachusetts Joint Committee On Public Health a week earlier, let its assisted suicide bill die in committee. Earlier this spring, New Hampshire overwhelmingly rejected an assisted suicide bill by a vote of 219-66.

“It’s a clean sweep,” said John Kelly, New England regional director for Not Dead Yet and director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts. “Throughout New England, assisted suicide proponents simply had no answers to the arguments raised by disability rights advocates. When public health committee members heard from us how discriminatory and dangerous assisted suicide is, they had ‘second thoughts.’”

With victory assured, Second Thoughts Connecticut leader Stephen Mendelsohn issued a statement that was picked up by the Associated Press, appearing in media from Boston to San Francisco. “The collateral damage from legalizing assisted suicide—including massive elder abuse, the deadly mix with a cost-cutting healthcare system steering people to suicide, misdiagnosis and incorrect prognosis, suicide contagion, and disability discrimination in suicide prevention—is simply not fixable.”

“In all three states, it’s clear that the disability community was heard and had an impact,” said Not Dead Yet President and CEO Diane Coleman. “People who are terminally ill are almost always disabled. This is one of many reasons that our perspective sheds some light on this complex issue.”

CT News Junkie stated, “Both this year and last year, people with disabilities and their advocates have been among the bill’s most outspoken opponents.”

Disability rights opposition was also a focus in US News and World Report. Alongside quotes from Not Dead Yet’s Coleman and Kelly, Marilyn Golden of the California-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund was quoted regarding the Connecticut bill, saying “This does not promote patient choice. It invites coercion.”

As Second Thoughts Connecticut leader Cathy Ludlum told the Yale Daily News, the bill “would basically redefine what suicide is. It would mean some people are going to get suicide prevention, and other people are going to get suicide assistance.”

“If someone at Yale feels like they want to kill themselves because their life has no dignity and worth, somebody would try to give them help to get better,” Kelly told the Yale Daily News. “But if it’s a disabled or terminally ill person, people say, ‘Of course you want to die.’”

CT News Junkie quoted Elaine Kolb’s testimony before the Public Health Committee, that “they are saying that ‘I’d rather be dead than be you,’” Kolb said. “This is something that people are saying to people with disabilities and there is contempt in it and there is contempt in this bill.”

Kolb, a long time Not Dead Yet activist and singer/songwriter, played guitar while leading Second Thoughts Connecticut’s press conferences in her song, “Not Dead Yet.

Advocates are ready for the legislative fights that are sure to begin again in 2015, Mendelsohn said. "We're not taking anything for granted and we know they're going to be back in 2015."

Second Thoughts Connecticut, the sister group to Second Thoughts Massachusetts organized last year to stop assisted suicide legislation, was recognized for its impact on the legislation’s defeat.


Contact

  • John Kelly
    Second Thoughts Massachusetts
    617-536-5140
    Email