President of Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights Testifies Against Legalization of Assisted Suicide in State Senate Committee Hearing

Ed Paquin, president of the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, represented the disability rights community in hearings held in the state’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week regarding a bill to legalize physician assisted suicide. Not Dead Yet, a national disability group opposed to the legislation, applauded Paquin's testimony, which described the dangers that state and national groups say the legislation poses for people with disabilities.

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“Many people with disabilities understand the euphemism [Death With Dignity] to convey that it is more dignified to die than to live in pain, or with a lack of mobility, or without the ability to self-care."

Rochester, NY (PRWEB) February 02, 2013

Ed Paquin, president of the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, represented the disability rights community in hearings held in the state’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week regarding a bill to legalize physician assisted suicide. Paquin was the only invited witness from Vermont’s disability organizations.

"The Senate Health & Welfare Committee heard a lot of testimony through the week with some effort at balance, but with very little emphasis on input from the disability community,” Paquin said following the Friday hearing at which he testified. “I believe I was the only individual specifically from a disability organization invited to speak, though some spoke in the large public hearing within their very short time slots."

Not Dead Yet, a national disability group opposed to the legislation, applauded Paquin's testimony, which described the dangers that state and national groups say the legislation poses for people with disabilities.

In his testimony, Paquin addressed several issues, including the bill’s use of the word “dignity” in its name, “Death With Dignity.” “Many people with disabilities understand the euphemism to convey that it is more dignified to die than to live in pain, or with a lack of mobility, or without the ability to self-care,” Paquin said in his testimony. “These are day-to-day factors in the lives of many people with disabilities, and the implication that our lives lack dignity adds to a stigma that is not only unwarranted but damaging.”

Paquin highlighted the concern that the Oregon Reports indicate that disability related problems that have not been adequately addressed are reasons that people receive prescriptions for assisted suicide. “It is short sighted and naïve to think that outside and even inside, personal influences will not bear on a frail individual,” Paquin said. “Even with the fairly sanitized data being collected ‘being a burden’ is identified as a motivating factor in a number of cases.”

Paquin also referred to Dr. Ira Byock, one of the previous day’s witnesses. “Wouldn’t we be better served as a society to train our medical professionals in the kind of end of life care that Dr. Byock described in his testimony?” Paquin noted.

Later in the day, Paquin was part of a debate on the issue broadcast on Vermont Public Radio.

Not Dead Yet has worked with Vermont disability rights advocates for several years as they have faced repeated attempts to legalize assisted suicide. “Many years ago, the Vermont Ethics Society brought me in for a debate with Ralph Mero, a leading national assisted suicide proponent,” said Diane Coleman, CEO of Not Dead Yet. “The Vermont disability community really stepped up then and has been very effective in communicating the realistic dangers in this type of bill throughout the last decade.”

The Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) has also been very vocal in opposing legislation to legalize physician assisted suicide. VCIL’s opposition is consistent with the position held by the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).

One concern is for those with new injuries or serious health conditions. “We understand what it means to deal with issues like the loss of one’s former dreams as well as the loss of physical abilities,” said Kelly Buckland, executive director of NCIL. “If assisted suicide had been legal in the past, even if it were supposedly only for those with ‘terminal’ conditions, many of us would not be here today.”


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