Princeton, NJ (PRWEB) February 07, 2013
On February 7, 2013, Princeton attorney Anne Studholme will testify on behalf of two national disability rights groups in a hearing held by the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on a proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide. Studholme will be representing Not Dead Yet and ADAPT, which oppose the legislation.
Assembly bill 3328, entitled the “New Jersey Death With Dignity Act,” was introduced by Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Timothy Eustace on September 27, 2012 and is patterned after laws passed by ballot referenda in Oregon and Washington states.
Not Dead Yet is described as “a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people.”
ADAPT is described as “a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.” The group’s primary focus is on expanding Medicaid home care alternatives to nursing facilities. The group garnered national press attention when actor Noah Wiley was arrested with over 100 members for chanting in the Cannon Building rotunda in Washington, D.C. last spring.
Leading proponents of bills to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill often claim that the views of disability organizations aren’t relevant. “While it’s true that people with disabilities aren’t usually terminally ill,” said Not Dead Yet president and CEO Diane Coleman, “the terminally ill are almost always disabled. We also live on the front lines of the health care system that serves (and too often underserves) dying people. One might view us as the proverbial ‘canaries in the coal mine’ who are alerting others to dangers we see first.”
Studholme’s testimony will emphasize the disability groups’ charge that assisted suicide legislation discriminates against old, ill and disabled people. According to her testimony:
“Central to the civil rights of people with disabilities is the idea that a disabling condition does not inherently diminish one's life; rather, surrounding barriers and prejudices do so. In contrast, assisted suicide gives official sanction to the idea that life with a disabling condition is not worth living. It sets up a double standard for how state licensed professionals respond to someone who says they want to die, mandating suicide prevention for one group, authorizing suicide assistance for the other.”
Studholme, of the firm Taylor, Colicchio & Studholme, LLP, previously represented Not Dead Yet, ADAPT and other national and New Jersey disability groups in filing a friend of the court brief in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey in the Betancourt v. Trinitas Hospital case (Docket No. A-3849-08T2). That case involved hospital efforts to withdraw life-sustaining treatment over the objections of the family of a 73-year-old man who did not have an advance directive. The disability groups argued on the side of the family, but the court dismissed the case as moot due to the patient's death.
“There are important differences between the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment, which we support, and doctor prescribed suicide,” said Coleman. “But the Betancourt case involved doctors who wanted to impose the removal of life support over the objections of a family that knew the man’s beliefs. If some doctors will fight in court for the power to overrule the patient and cause their death, how can we talk about making doctors the gatekeepers over a sea change in public policy like assisted suicide?”