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Sarah Cavar

This hasn’t previously been on NDY’s radar (h/t to Euthanasia Prevention Coalition), but Germany has been grappling with assisted suicide since at least 2005, when a woman disabled by paralysis, Bettina Koch, sought to purchase suicide drugs domestically. She was denied, and then travelled to Switzerland and committed suicide “with the help of the Dignitas euthanasia association.”

In 2012, after a years-long legal battle, her surviving husband received a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. Although it did not rule broadly on individuals’ rights to assisted suicide, the Court did state that “German courts were negligent in refusing to hear [his wife’s] case,” sending it back to the German courts.

According to DW.com, a German news outlet, the European Court of Human Rights — “decided not to issue a ruling on the right to assisted suicide, saying this duty fell to individual countries. . . . [T]he court said it would not issue a binding ruling on the matter, especially as only four of the 42 comparative states the court examined allowed active assisted suicide. Only three EU member countries – the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – currently permit active assisted suicide, when someone agrees to a request from the patient to help them end their life. Switzerland is not in the EU.” (As of 2013, there are 28 countries in the EU.)

In a 2015 article, DW.com reported that, “In Germany, assisted suicide is not illegal under criminal law, but the doctors’ own professional code of ethic prohibits it.”

However, in 2015, the German Parliament voted against allowing commercial associations to help people to commit suicide. This criminalized the practice for such groups. At the same time, Parliament rejected other bills to fully legalize assisted suicide. Nevertheless, family members or close associates were reportedly still exempted from punishment in assisted suicide cases.

The after-effects of the 2012 “special case” were again keenly felt in 2017. After subsequent proceedings, on March 2, 2017, DW.com reported that Germany’s federal court ruled that people:

. . . “in extreme circumstances” should have legal access to drugs to end their own lives.

The federal administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favor of “the right for a patient who is suffering and incurably ill to decide how and when their life should end” provided the patient “can freely express their will and act accordingly.”

Reportedly, the purchase of deadly drugs in Germany is forbidden (though not criminal except for commercial associations), but the court found that the right of self-determination meant there should be exceptions for extreme cases “if, because of their intolerable life situation, they had freely and seriously decided to end their lives” and if there were no palliative-medical alternatives.

The “extreme cases” concept based on Mrs. Koch’s case of paralysis is extremely objectionable from a disability perspective, and the absence of a definition of what constitutes an extreme and exceptional case meriting assisted suicide is more than troubling.

In the same year, German Parliament strengthened palliative care to require greater insurance coverage of hospice care for patients in the country.

Then, in January of 2018, the 2017 ruling was called into question by former German Supreme Court judge Udo di Fabio. Also an attorney for Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), di Fabio asserted that the state providing drugs to individuals is unconstitutional, as it means the state intervening in some of an individual’s most personal choices. Since 2017, the BfArM had “not only [been] ordered to supply the pill, but also to decide on its own which cases effectively warranted suicide and which didn’t.”

Among other things, the shadow of the Holocaust renders Germany especially sensitive to state intervention in the lives and deaths of its citizens. The BfArM fears the possibility of enacting similar levels of state violence if it continued to be granted the power to give suicide drugs to patients. Although the outcome of di Fabio’s challenge remains to be seen, he has influential people such as Germany’s Federal Health Minister, Hermann Gröthe, on his side; as well as organizations like the German Foundation for Patient Protection.

We hope that these and other actors will continue to stand in opposition to state involvement in assisted suicide in Germany. But frankly, if families are permitted to assist suicide, one wonders if these opponents have ever heard of elder abuse, because from Not Dead Yet’s point of view they’ve certainly left a gaping hole in patient protections.

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The California state assisted suicide report for 2017 omitted at least one important type of data, the reasons people request lethal drugs. The reasons data is something that Oregon and Washington have reported from the beginning of their “experiments” with these extremely flawed and dangerous laws.

This omission by California should raise red flags. First, the physician follow up form the state requires from the prescribing doctors after the patient dies includes a question about the reasons the patient requested assisted suicide. If the data is collected, why not report it?

Another red flag is the wording of the question on the form. The reasons question on the California form (See Question 15 below**) differs from the question on the Oregon form (also Question 15). The pain factor in California’s form refers to actual pain, while Oregon’s form refers to actual pain or concern about pain, potentially including fear of future pain.

More disturbingly, California omits two of the factors listed in the Oregon form – financial concerns and feelings of being a burden on others. Feelings of being a burden have been an increasing factor, with 55% reportedly expressing this in 2017 in Oregon.

As disability rights advocates have repeatedly noted, the reported reasons people request assisted suicide demonstrate, contrary to frequent claims by assisted suicide proponents, that pain is not the issue, but rather psychosocial and practical concerns that can be addressed by quality palliative care and other supports. In addition, these concerns demonstrate that the people who receive lethal prescriptions are disabled, whether their conditions be lifelong or acquired, chronic or terminal.

Since California is collecting but not reporting this data, we are left to ask why? Have assisted suicide proponents urged the state to withhold this information? Admittedly, disability advocates point out the corresponding data in Oregon as an indication of the dangers of assisted suicide laws. But if California claims to be committed to honest reporting, what do they have to hide?

** 15. Possible concerns that may have contributed to the patient’s decision to request a prescription for aid-in-dying drug Please check “yes,” “no,” or “Don’t know,” depending on whether or not you believe that concern contributed to their request (Please check as many boxes as you think may apply) A concern about. . .

o His or her terminal condition representing a steady loss of autonomy ☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Don’t Know

o The decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable ☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Don’t Know

o The loss of control of bodily functions ☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Don’t Know

o Persistent and uncontrollable pain and suffering ☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Don’t Know

o A loss of Dignity ☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Don’t Know

o Other concerns (specify): ____________________________________________

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Looking at the picture of Noel Conway wearing a breathing mask like mine in today’s Guardian article “Terminally ill Noel Conway loses challenge to assisted dying ban“, I can’t help but feel a profound sense of relief. I acknowledge that acquiring a progressive neuromuscular disability later in life as Conway did is different than growing up with one as I did, but his claim of being “entombed” by his illness is more a reflection of his personal psychology than objective fact. And, let’s face it, he’s had more time to adapt to these physical changes than someone with a high spinal cord injury who faces a sudden and complete change with no gradual process.

According to the Guardian article, Conway seems to believe that his only option without assisted suicide is a difficult death by suffocation or traveling to Switzerland. I’m not sure where he got that suffocation idea, but it is not consistent with the standard of medical care. Hospice and palliative care professionals have been facilitating comfortable deaths when breathing support is removed for at least three decades.

Fortunately, Not Dead Yet UK has been active in the Conway case from its early stages, and intervened to provide evidence from a disability perspective in the proceedings resolved in this latest Court ruling. Below is NDY UK’s press release about this important legal victory. They have our deepest gratitude and respect.

NOEL CONWAY LOSES HIS ASSISTED DYING CHALLENGE

Phil Friend from Not Dead Yet, which intervened in the case, said:

“We’re pleased that the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Divisional Court which had refused the claim that the prohibition on assisted dying is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

“We’re particularly pleased that the court recognised some of the concerns in our submission around the dangers of legalising assisted dying. These include issues such as safeguards for people who might be at risk of coercion, the difficulties in predicting death within six months, and whether any scheme might be extended (as has happened in Belgium).

“The debate will continue, but we remain firm in our view that assisted dying opens the door to risks and dangers driven by attitudes about disabled people and their lives. It’s worth noting that no disability charity or organisation is campaigning for a change in the law around assisted dying. We want support to live, not to die.

“We’ve seen two recent NHS reports which catalogue the systemic failures to provide appropriate care for disabled people, resulting in their premature and unnecessary deaths. Until disabled people are seen, and treated, as equals in our society, the law must protect them.

“Our thanks go to Fry Law and Cloisters Chambers, which provided pro bono representation.”

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Not Dead Yet joins with other organizations representing the national disability community, as well as numerous civil and human rights groups, in condemning the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

We have already seen stories of disabled children experiencing the effects of this cruel and horrific policy. Some are included in statements issued by our colleagues in disability rights:

  • Statement from the American Assn. of People with Disabilities is at this link
  • Statement from the Arc of the United States is at this link
  • Statement from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is at this link
  • Statement from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is at this link
  • Statement from the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy is at this link

And we have heard the statements of child development and medical experts about the incredible psychological harm, profound emotional pain, insecurity, and post traumatic stress disorder for some, that will haunt the affected children far into the future.

News reports say that Trump just signed an order that the family separation policy will stop. This must happen immediately, and our government must do whatever it takes to reunite children with their parents as quickly and humanely as possible.

Sadly, we continue to fear that the administration is ill prepared to reunite families, reportedly having failed to keep track of the children they seized. We also fear that its plans for detention of families seeking asylum will continue a pattern of irreparable harm and injustice. The impact of these realities on children with disabilities is deeply concerning and, in some cases, where a parent’s knowledge of their child’s health is needed, it could be life-threatening.

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Sarah Cavar

A Summary of ASAN’s Invitational Summit on Supported Decision-Making and Transition to the Community: Conclusions and Recommendations.

Introduction:

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) recently released a document stating the conclusions from their “Invitational Summit on Supported Decision-Making and Transition to the Community”. This was a summit that included allies and self-advocates to disability justice, and focused on possible alternatives in housing and healthcare to the paternalism disabled people and other patients experience today. The full “Conclusions and Recommendations” PDF can be found here. In this blog post, I will summarize some primary issues and takeaways from this document, and highlight its relevance to Not Dead Yet’s audience and purpose.

ASAN begins their document by addressing the problem of “guardianship”. Disabled people with “full” guardianships lack the right to basic life decisions, including with whom they associate and where they live and work, without the guardian’s consent. Guardians may also directly make decisions for the disabled person in their “care”. Because such guardianships have led to abuse and exploitation, some (such as ASAN) have recently turned toward a “supported decision-making” process, instead of the paternalistic guardianships (p. 3).

This shift toward supported decision-making provides the context for ASAN’s October 2016 summit, in which both this and larger efforts at deinstitutionalization were discussed. This means that supported decision-making must be thought of in the context of non-hierarchical community relationships; the goal of deinstitutionalization, after all, is to end the paternalistic relationships between disabled people and our “carers” that make institutional confinement so brutal. Ultimately, an international team produced a list of “four components critical for successful integration into the community” and elaborated on each in the rest of the document (pp. 3-4). I will discuss each briefly below.

  1. Housing (pp. 5-11)

Group members recommend educating and engaging landlords on the specific needs of disabled residents; and interrogating the ableist idea that a disabled person is untrustworthy if they do not have a guardian speaking on their behalf. Additionally, ensuring more housing is available to disabled people living on Section 8 housing benefits is crucial. By extension, this requires securing affordable and accessible housing for all people, a fight which is still ongoing. Thus, ASAN encourages disability rights activists to work alongside fair-housing activists to ensure disabled tenants’ equal right to housing. Once an accessible, affordable living situation is secured, those assisting in the transition must be attentive to each person’s unique needs and modes of communication.

  1. Relationships & Natural Supports (pp. 12-20)

ASAN encourages government-funded peer support networks (not connected to institutions) for people in the transition process between institution and community, as long as there are safeguards to ensure that peer supporters will not turn into pseudo-guardians.These supporters might look like ombudspersons who amplify the voice of the disabled person in legal settings, instead of speaking for them. In starting programs like this, trainings for these workers must emphasize the difference between their role and the role of the “guardian.” More than one supported decision maker per person is recommended so that none become a guardian; no supported decision-maker should gain unilateral control over one person’s life, and multiple witnesses help to prevent this.

  1. Healthcare (pp. 20-22)

Treatments and options, and the details therein, must be accessible and understandable to disabled people who may undergo them. Supporters should aid in this to make sure their clients are able to exercise informed consent to medical treatments. On a larger scale, ASAN recommends training medical professionals to work better with their disabled patients. Discussion of healthcare will be expanded further in below paragraphs, particularly with regard to its importance for Not Dead Yet’s mission.

  1. Long-term Services & Supports (pp. 22-28)

In the search for supports, we as disabled people should have access to those who can help us choose which services to use in the long-term. Some support networks act as agents, screening and recommending support staff for disabled people who may need them (with the disabled people making the final decision as to which services to use). ASAN encourages governments to fund these support networks. To further aid in ensuring disabled peoples’ decision-making autonomy, ASAN recommends keeping a detailed record of all decisions made and modes of communication used by the disabled person so that this information is available to new supporters and other workers in the person’s life. In order to make sure choice and autonomy remain possible, funds for long-term services and supports for which the person is eligible should “follow the person” in their choices of setting, supporters, and other direct care workers. In contrast, currently, funding tends to be structured around the institutions that house disabled people, providing an incentive to continue institutionalizing us.

Relevance to Not Dead Yet

ASAN recommends that multiple voices must work in concert with the disabled person’s to make sure that it is possible to make an informed decision in line with the person’s wants and needs. At Not Dead Yet, we see an overwhelming number of cases in which patients’ underlying disability-related needs are ignored or devalued in discussions of assisted suicide. We also see that people feel pressure to choose assisted suicide because they feel like “burdens”, or who feel pushed toward suicide because of shame, depression, and fear of further disablement. These feelings are taught by an ableist society.

Normalizing community solidarity and welcoming disabled people into neighborhoods, especially those with affordable housing, we can grow networks of mutual support and friendship. Exposure to others who live with disabilities everyday –– including those who might need help using the restroom, need constant in-home care, and have other needs typically associated with ableist shame –– helps to correct the cultural devaluation that leads some to request assisted suicide.

The prospect of multiple long-term supporters who are trained to communicate effectively with the disabled person, instead of for any of us, is a promising step toward combating abled paternalism and ensuring that we can speak for ourselves and make our own choices. Via support networks, we can maintain more control over who interacts and assists in our lives and in what ways. With a multitude of self-chosen people working together with us, with many of whom we may have had long-term relationships, it is possible for healthcare decisions to be made in accordance with the disabled person’s desires. Lastly, the presence of multiple, trained supporters alongside patients in medical settings can help to correct against intentional and unintentional doctor intimidation, especially toward patients who have previously experienced institutionalization and abuse.

Conclusion:

Using their four main components for integration, ASAN and its national and international allies hope to produce a “cultural shift” in perceptions of disabled people at large (p. 29). This shift requires money and support of governments –– meaning that those in power must radically shift their present views of disabled people. It is our hope as advocates for disability justice that we can reinvent (supported) decision making for disabled people, so that our voices are most central in our own medical decisions, and that supporters and professionals work in solidarity with us, instead of simply speaking over us.

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June 11, 2018

Kia ora koutou, and thank you for the opportunity to present this submission. I am Wendi Wicks and I am the convener of Not Dead Yet Aotearoa, a national network of disabled people opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

We in Not Dead Yet Aotearoa have some of the best personal stories you would ever hear about the brutal realities of living with grievous and irremediable conditions and we live it every single bloody day. Ah the stories…

But this process here should not be a pissing contest to see who’s got the most gruesome headline, the most heart-rending individual story. It’s about a bill for all of us, the law is there to protect us all as a whole.

This bill is about policy, culture systems and justice. That means: you have to see this bill for its entirety, and not just aspects that appeal. You have to think about the public good-thats all of us, and that means you have to pay as much attention to group rights as you do to individual rights.

You have to see what its impact would be on disabled people, who struggle every day to get the help and respect they need to live their one and only life to its best.

You have to see that at the very heart of this bill is a primal fear of becoming disabled. To put it in the words of Baroness Jane Campbell (a disabled peer) “…society’s view of terminal illness and [of] disability I think can be summed up in one word. That word is fear: fear of loss of opportunity; fear of denial of self-determination; fear of loss of control; fear of pain; fear of hardship; fear of being a burden to others”.

Does that attitude of fear and diminution of disability that runs through society and is utterly embedded in the words of this bill offend me? Absolutely, and to the marrow of my bones.

But more than that, it scares the shit out of me that it seems to be taken for granted that how disabled people live everyday lives is dire and dreadful and not worth it. And because if this bill passes it would be Parliament agreeing that people – especially health workers – could look at me and my friends and say “I wouldn’t want to live if I was like you” and sign off a piece of paper to make that legal.

Let me be clear: I don’t want your pity. I want your protection. I demand your protection for disabled people’s right to live in the absence of choice of the privileged.

And let’s be very very clear that there can be no protection, there can be no “safeguards”, in a bill that starts with the implicit proposition that it is better to be dead than disabled. That’s choice? Really?

Messages

So the first key message we have for this committee is this: this bill would put disabled people hugely at risk in a society where we are already marginalised, feared and discriminated against. NDYA does not support a bill that ignores our rights, our collective rights, and in doing so puts our individual rights even more at risk.
When we have the NZ government reporting to the international monitoring committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that disabled people in NZ are disadvantaged, discriminated against and have a lower quality of life it should be plain to see that we don’t need any more barriers. It would be far better to see all NZ governments make active and sustained efforts to give equity to our lives. That mean all disabled people can make choices in their living with the supports they need, not just a choice to die.

We do not, will not accept the situation this bill would entail, where “The real question…is how much risk to the vulnerable we are prepared to accept in this area in order to facilitate suicide by the invulnerable.”

Second, and I can’t over-emphasise it -this bill is absolutely about disability. There’ve been concerted messages that the bill is nothing to do with disability, that it’s all about some other people, and would you please move along and behave yourselves?

Those who say it isn’t haven’t read the bill. Clause 4(d) says that to be eligible you have to be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability”. Now ‘decline in capability’ is code for disabled, whether the impairment is from birth, acquired from illness or injury or from ageing.

To put it another way, again using another bit of the bill’s wording of ‘terminal illness’, while not everyone with a disability has a terminal illness, all people with a terminal illness have a disability. Further, the proposed criteria would cover disabled people who are not immediately terminal. So you tell me: how much of my sight or my hearing or my speech or my movement or my memory do I have to lose before a doctor can legally decide that I’m better off dead? Because the bill surely doesn’t tell us.

A third message is that the idea of choice this bill promotes is a sad shabby figment. You need to keep in mind that choice- an underpinning of this bill- will be, to disabled people, like the choice poorer people have in supermarkets- a choice with fewer options; a choice with more illusions than equality.

There’s this idea that choice is unbounded and it must always be a good thing. But choices are much more complicated than just a “choice must always be the best thing” approach. It’s all in the context- what are the actual circumstances where that choice gets made? And why would you think that could possibly get codified into a law to adequately protect everyone?

Am I saying choice is therefore bad? -no indeed. What I am saying is that there are a million squillion things that make what choice means for me different to choice for you, you or you. Here’s a hint: non-disabled people will have more options on the drop-down menu of choices. And as a verbal disabled person, I’ll have more choices than a non-verbal or learning disabled person or someone with autism. So, this bill will codify, enshrine choice? Give me a break! To think one can promote equitable fair and ethical choice in this bill is a figment.

Finally and reinforcing what has just been said, the words the concepts that are used throughout this bill- criteria, definitions are hugely used to describe disabled lives and their use accords our life a lesser value. That is just not adequate.

Assisted dying is the equivalent of a zero-hours contract with life In summary, the bill is unjust, dangerously flawed in thought and in wording. NDYA has not detailed the gaps. A patch-up job on this would not be useful, as it would be bad law, and bad for the public interest. NDYA urges you strenuously to remember that individual choices are not a good basis for legislation that would put the public interest last and make disabled peoples’ lives even more dispensable.

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The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund helped lead efforts to oppose the legalization of assisted suicide in California. Though successful during the regular legislative session, assisted suicide proponents bullied their way through an end run on the regular process and secured passage of the law in late 2015. NDY covered and assisted these efforts. Examples are here, here and here.

Recently, litigation by others challenging the law has moved forward. What follows is an op-ed by DREDF’s Marilyn Golden about the litigation and the opportunity it presents to correct the legislature’s error in passing this law. The article begins:

California made a mistake by legalizing assisted suicide, but now it has a chance to correct its error. California’s assisted suicide law was overturned by Judge Daniel Ottolia because the legislative process was not properly followed. If Judge Ottolia’s ruling stands, it will be a great protection for people with terminal illness, economic disadvantage, and especially people with disabilities.

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is appealing Judge Ottolia’s ruling in an effort to once again make assisted suicide legal in California. It is disappointing to see the person responsible for upholding the rule of law and the state’s constitution, defending an illegally passed law.  No matter the procedural problem this court decision is based upon, disability rights advocates are opposed to assisted suicide laws because they have harmful impacts on people with disabilities.

To read this excellent article in full, go here.

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For Immediate Release: June 11, 2018

Contacts:
Diane Coleman 708-420-0539
Marilyn Golden 510-549-9339

Disability rights advocates led by Not Dead Yet are concerned with the American Medical Association’s decision today to continue studying the issue of physician assisted suicide. While the AMA’s longstanding policy against assisted suicide still stands, a simple affirmation of the policy was defeated in a 46-53% vote.

The current AMA policy states, in essential part:

“[P]ermitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good.

“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Two years ago, some AMA members raised the possibility of taking a neutral stance on the issue, and the matter was referred to the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. After two years of study, the Council recommended that the AMA maintain its policy opposing assisted suicide, but this recommendation was not accepted and the matter was referred back for further study.

“We had hoped that the AMA would follow the Council’s lead and affirm current policy once and for all,” said Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability organization. “Assisted suicide proponents have repeatedly tried to make this a culture war issue, ignoring the strong opposition of the AMA and other medical organizations, as well as numerous national disability organizations. But we’ll keep fighting for this critical protection for patients.”

The top three concerns raised by disability advocates in opposing assisted suicide bills have been:

  • If insurers deny, or even merely delay, expensive live-saving treatment, the person will be steered toward assisted suicide. Will insurers do the right thing, or the cheap thing?
  • Elder abuse, and abuse of people with disabilities, are a rising problem. Where assisted suicide is legal, an heir (someone who stands to inherit from the patient) or abusive caregiver may steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and even give the drug — no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know?
  • Diagnoses of terminal illness are often wrong, leading people to give up on treatment and lose good years of their lives, and endangering people with disabilities, people with chronic illness, and other people misdiagnosed as terminally ill.

Coleman has analyzed the Oregon state assisted suicide data and found that it substantiates a number of their concerns. This information was included in Not Dead Yet’s second of two formal submissions to the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.

“If assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes, coercion and abuse,” said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed, that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

Coleman has analyzed the Oregon state assisted suicide data and found that it substantiates a number of their concerns. This information was included in Not Dead Yet’s second of two formal submissions to the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.

“If assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes, coercion and abuse,” said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed, that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

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For anyone unfamiliar with the show, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” features in-depth, dark – and often viciously humorous takes on important news. The last show shared the often dark and abusive sides of guardianship in the USA:

Guardianship: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - YouTube

This video is captioned. Three things about the captioning:

  1. The captioning is mostly accurate;
  2. John Oliver is a very fast talker – as a consequence, the captioning sometimes flies by quickly;
  3. For some reason, every expletive spoken is deleted from the captioning.

I recommend watching it and sharing it. While you’ll laugh in places, it’s a serious take on a serious topic – the rampant exploitation of people who lose their rights to control their own lives.

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A great opinion piece by Jamie Hale begins with a photo of two women in wheelchairs, seated in front of several artful props that suggest a graveyard. The photo has a caption above and below: I can see no safeguards to prevent people being pressured into ending their lives. What we need is more support to live . . .  ‘All I see is a system which divides lives, offering suicide prevention to some, and euthanasia to others.’ Campaigners against assisted suicide outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.”

The article itself begins:

Opposition to assisted suicide – also called assisted dying – is characterised as being the preserve of the religious, stuffy and outdated, like religious opposition to gay marriage and abortion. In reality, some of the loudest voices opposing it are those of people with disabilities – because we have the most to fear. A poll done by Scope (a disability charity) showed that the majority of disabled people (64%) were concerned about moves to legalise assisted suicide.

Arguments around the legality of suicide and the right to refuse treatment are often conflated with assisted suicide. Suicide is legal, and there is already a right to refuse treatment. People with mental capacity can also create an advance directive to ensure their wish to refuse treatment is respected in future. This leaves people often able to die on their own terms. What assisted dying advocates are requesting is to create a system in which it is legally and morally permissible for people to engage in a deliberate action designed to end someone else’s life.

***

Some 5% of people in Oregon dying by assisted suicide cited financial pressures as a cause. Meanwhile, the number citing being a “burden on family/friends/caregivers” increased from 13% in 1998 to 55% in 2017. This tallies with Scope’s research that the majority of people with disabilities are concerned that legalising assisted suicide might lead to disabled people choosing it in order not to be a burden on others.

To read the full article, go here.

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