Showing posts with label disability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disability. Show all posts

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Montana's Law Protected Me

I have read the guest column, "People living with disabilities support death with dignity" (July 25), which advocates for legalizing assisted suicide and/or euthanasia for the disabled. I could be described as such a person and this opinion does not speak for me. I am strongly against legalizing these practices.

When I was in high school, I was on track to get a basketball scholarship to college. And then, I was in a car accident. The accident left me in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic. In addition to my paralysis, I had other difficulties. Over the next two or three years, I gave serious thought to suicide. And I had the means to do it, but both times I got close, I stopped myself.

If instead, my doctor, an authority figure, had told me that ending my life was a rational course, there might have been a different result. If instead, he had given me a lethal dose to ingest or offered to euthanize me, I might have gone along with it. But assisted suicide and euthanasia were not legal in Montana. Such courses were off the table.

So, instead, I went to college to seek a degree in education. While in college, I participated in wheelchair racing at the state, national and international levels. I met my husband and 21 years later the honeymoon is not over. We have three beautiful daughters and a new baby granddaughter. I am also active in my community.

Montana's law protected me and I hope it will stay in place to continue to protect me and others as we go through the sometimes hard times of life.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be legal.

Lucinda Hardy, Columbia Falls

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Not Dead Yet Supports HB 505

Dear Senate Judiciary Committee Member:

Not Dead Yet is a national disability rights group with members in Montana.  On behalf of our members, I write to say that we urge you to pass HB 505, which is a short and simple bill to prevent legalization of assisted suicide and end the dispute over whether it is legal in Montana.

In the last two years, three other states have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide (Idaho, Georgia and Louisiana).  Not Dead Yet of Georgia was involved in the Georgia efforts.  We met with a woman, Sue Celmer, whose ex-husband had been assisted to commit suicide by Final Exit Network.  He had previously battled cancer, but was cancer free when these suicide predators assisted him.  Her story helped convey the urgency of legislation banning assisted suicide.   We hope that Montana will join Georgia and the other two states to protect older people, our families and ourselves.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why Do So Many Disability Groups Oppose Physician Assisted Suicide?

by:  James D. McGaughey, Executive Director,
Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. 
(Adapted from an article that originally appeared in the
International Social Role Valorization Journal in 2010.)

In 2009, a proposal that would have legalized Physician Assisted Suicide was introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly.  The language of that proposal paralleled legislation being pursued in other states by Compassion and Choices, a successor organization to the Hemlock Society.  When the proposal was withdrawn without a public hearing, Compassion and Choices moved to the Courts, seeking a judicial ruling that provisions of the Connecticut Statutes prohibiting assisting a person to commit suicide should not be applied to physicians who write lethal prescriptions for their patients.  Their lawsuit was dismissed.  Now, in 2013, it appears that another attempt to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide is being made in Connecticut.  While the details of the current proposals are unavailable as of this writing, they will likely be similar to proposals that are being pursued in other states – proposals that have drawn stiff opposition from disability advocates in those states.
Proponents of legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide argue that it’s all about compassion and personal autonomy.  Citing examples of individuals who have ended, or who apparently want to end their lives by taking lethal doses of prescribed drugs, they propose adoption of the euphemistic term “assistance with dying”, and suggest Physician Assisted Suicide be seen as a compassionate alternative to suffering intractable pain or endless, intrusive, de-dignifying medical interventions.  If all we hear is their side of the story it seems reasonable enough.  After all, shouldn’t we have the option of avoiding an ignoble end?  Shouldn’t our doctors be able to prescribe drugs that will do the job quietly and professionally?  Isn’t this a matter of personal choice? What’s wrong with just having the option?  

Leading disability rights groups see plenty of problems with it. A number of well respected organizations, including the National Council on Disability, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the World Institute on Disability, Justice For All, TASH (formerly called The Association of the Severely Handicapped), the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and grass roots groups such as ADAPT and Not Dead Yet have all adopted positions opposing legalization of assisted suicide.  In fact, members of many of these groups have been teaming up with local independent living centers and state-level advocacy coalitions to challenge the state-by state campaign to promote Physician Assisted Suicide.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jeff Golin Against Assisted Suicide

We are California Democrats and we are terrified of assisted suicide laws.  We have a severely disabled daughter who is in the institutional care of the State of California.

Given the long and notorious history of euthanasia, we are hoping you will approve HB 505 to put an end to the deceptions about this "cause."  We believe this is necessary to discourage assisted suicide from coming here to California, if it is not stopped in Montana.  We don't believe there are any effective safeguards against its possible abuses.

In our case personally, we fear physician assisted suicide could be sold here in Califolrnia as a means to prematurely terminate difficult disability cases like our daughters', to supposedly save money for relatives and caregivers, even while it is made to appear as a "choice."

Please vote "YES" on HB 505.

Jeffrey R. Golin

Monday, January 28, 2013

Physician-assisted suicide runs risk of invisible coercion

Ben Mattlin writes in The New York Times on Oct. 31, 2012, that he counts himself as a pro-choice liberal who ought to support physician-assisted suicide, but as a lifelong disabled person, he cannot.

Physician-assisted suicide is a person swallowing a lethal drug prescribed by a doctor. With plenty of room for abuse, Mattlin says, it’s a bad idea.

In Montana, the issue of physician-assisted suicide has been kicked around in the Legislature and in the courts, including the Montana Supreme Court, resulting in a mixed message that needs clarity. This Legislature will try again.

Here’s Mattlin: “My problem, ultimately, is this: I’ve lived so close to death for so long that I know how thin and porous the border between coercion and free choice is, how easy it is for someone to inadvertently influence you to feel devalued and hopeless — to pressure you ever so slightly but decidedly into being ‘reasonable’ to unburdening others, to ‘letting go.’”

He goes on to say that, while the push for physician-assisted suicide comes from many who have seen a loved one suffer, supporters of it can’t truly conceive of the many “subtle forces — invariably well-meaning, kindhearted, even gentle, yet as persuasive as a tsunami — that emerge when your physical autonomy is hopelessly compromised.”

Mattlin was born with spinal muscular atrophy. He has never walked, stood, or had much use of his hands. Half of babies with this condition die within two years. Today, Mattlin, almost 50, is a husband, father, journalist and author.

When a hospital blunder compromised his heath further, doctors questioned whether his life was worth saving. Mattlin writes, “They didn’t know about my family, my career, my aspirations.” His wife rescued him.

From this he learned how easy it is to be perceived as someone whose quality of life is untenable and how this becomes one of many invisible forces of coercion. Others include, “that certain look of exhaustion in a loved one’s eyes, or the way nurses or friends sigh in your presence while you are zoned out in a hospital bed.”

Mattlin writes that this can cast a dangerous cloud of depression upon even the most cheery of optimists. He says, “advocates of Death with Dignity laws who say that patients themselves should decide whether to live or die are fantasizing. We are inexorably affected by our immediate environment. The deck is stacked.”

Cort Freeman
2950 Bayard St.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

National disability rights group concerned Montana could legalize assisted suicide

December 02, 2012

Not Dead Yet is a national disability rights group with members in Montana, some of whom are seniors. On behalf of our members, I write to say that we are extremely concerned that assisted suicide, sometimes euphemistically called "aid in dying," could be legalized in Montana.

It is estimated that there are 21,265 cases of elder abuse annually in Montana, reported and unreported (

Statistically, 90 percent of elder abusers are a family member or trusted other. Similarly, people with disabilities are up to four times more likely to be abused than their same-age nondisabled peers.

In Oregon and Washington, legal assisted suicide has opened new paths of abuse against persons who "qualify" to use these laws. A more obvious problem is a complete lack of oversight when the lethal drug is administered. If an abuser were to administer the drug without the person's consent, who would know?

It is simply naive to suggest that assisted suicide can be added to the array of medical treatment options, without taking into account the harsh realities of elder abuse and the related potential for coercion.

For more information about problems with legalization of assisted suicide, please see and Coleman,
Not Dead Yet,
Rochester, New York

Also published in the Ravalli Republic at

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"The Board is both misleading physicians and endangering patients"

To the Montana Board of Medical Examiners:

Not Dead Yet is a national disability rights group with members in Montana. This letter is to urge you to rescind the position statement that the Board of Medical Examiners formulated entitled "Physician Aid in Dying" (Position 20).

First, it is incorrect to state that the Baxter decision will "...shield a physician from liability for acting in accordance with a patient's end-of-life wishes if an adult, mentally competent terminally ill patient consents to the physician's aid-in-dying." The Montana Supreme Court merely stated that if the physician can show that he/she acted in accordance with a person's wishes and consent, then such consent can be raised as a defense to a charge of homicide against the physician. Once raised, a judge or jury may or may not find the defense valid after considering all the facts and circumstances of the case.

For example, a judge or jury could reasonably expect a doctor who assists in a patient’s suicide to take practical steps to ensure that the patient’s request to die is voluntary and not coerced by others who might benefit from the death financially or by being relieved of care giving responsibilities. The potential for coercion is fraught with risks for physicians.

It is estimated that there are 21,265 cases of elder abuse annually in Montana, reported and unreported. Statistically, 90% of elder abusers are a family member or trusted other. Similarly, people with disabilities are up to four times more likely to be abused than their same-age nondisabled peers.

A relative who is willing to abuse an elder or disabled person might be equally willing to bring up assisted suicide as an option for an ill relative. An abuser might take their relative to visit the doctor to request assisted suicide. An abuser might pick up the lethal prescription at the pharmacy. Even if the abuser went so far as to administer the drugs without the person’s actual consent at the time of death, who would know?

It is simply naïve to suggest that assisted suicide can be added to the array of medical treatment options, on a par with palliative care, without taking into account the harsh realities of elder abuse and the related potential for coercion. The Montana Supreme Court overlooked the public policy implications of elder abuse in its analysis, but in individual cases this issue is likely to become a factor that physicians could only ignore at their peril.

In stating that physicians have a shield against liability for assisted suicide when either a judge or a jury may view a case very differently, the Board is both misleading physicians and endangering patients.

We urge the Board to reconsider and rescind its position on assisted suicide.


Diane Coleman, JD, MBA
Not Dead Yet

Monday, July 2, 2012

"The Board's reckless action puts ordinary Montanans at risk, especially the elderly and the disabled"

Dear Board of Medical Examiners:

The new Position 20 is worse than the old position 20. First, we are talking about physician assisted suicide. I don't find "aid in dying" a helpful term to explain what's really going on -- suicide. But the so-called "aid in dying" without definition could include direct euthanasia! (See Charlton letter, memo and attachments, click here and here) The Board's reckless action puts ordinary Montanans at risk, especially the elderly and the disabled.

Also, the Board has no jurisdiction. It is not above the law. As a citizen who believes in the integrity of government, I request that Position Statement No. 20 be vacated due for the reasons set forth in Mr. Charlton's letter and memo. 

Cort Freeman
Butte, Montana