Last week, 9 News aired a story about Barbara Mancini, a Pennsylvania woman who was charged with assisting in her father’s suicide. The story quoted yours truly presenting the disability rights perspective to the largely pro-assisted suicide story, but with good points from the disability rights and hospice perspectives.
Mancini, who is touring as a Compassion & Choices shill in favor of assisted suicide. She recently spoke in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico among other states.
As Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet has written, the charges against Mancini were a little puzzling. Her elderly father took a large dose of morphine, and died four days later. The cause of death said morphine toxicity, when the large morphine dose was days earlier. Mancini was charged with assisting a suicide. The prosecutors alleged that Mancini told the police she gave her father an overdose of morphine. She alleges she handed her father his morphine bottle when he asked for it. At a preliminary hearing, a judge ruled there was sufficient evidence for the case to go forward. Later her attorney filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted, and Mancini was cleared of all charges. Ultimately, the legal system worked. However, outraged that she dared be charged, Mancini is now a pawn in Compassion & Choices’ game.
Mancini and Compassion & Choices’ outrage at being charged really goes more to racial and class privilege than it does to issues of assisted suicide. Poor people, and people of color are regularly charged with crimes that are later dismissed. They don’t to tour the country on someone else’s dime to protest injustice in our legal system. As the Innocence Project, has demonstrated again and again, people, largely men of color, are wrongly convicted in our judicial system. Innocent people have been condemned to death, often due to racial and class bias. Compassion & Choices refuses to acknowledge that mistakes are and will be made with legalized physician assisted suicide. Ableism, racism, and classism will cause people to die against their will. Disabled people, people of color, and poor people know all too well how laws created to ostensibly protect us, hurt us in the end.
A look into any pro-death event, be it a Compassion & Choices event, or the bi-annual meeting of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, one thing is clear. By and large, middle and upper middle class white people are pushing physician assisted suicide. People of color, disabled people, and poor people do not support physician assisted suicide.
Every major disability rights organization who has taken a position on assisted suicide opposes the practice. We know we are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. We know we are the first to experience adverse affects from health care policy. People of color know how they too are adversely affected by so called race-neutral policies that are in actuality, not race neutral because racial divides run so deep in this country. A 2013 nationwide poll by the Pew Research center demonstrates the racial divide in support for physician assisted suicide.
% of adults who say they disapprove or approve of laws to allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients:*
|Race||% Disapprove||% Approve|
Assisted suicide is an agenda pushed by the most privileged among us. It is not designed to protect disabled people. It is not designed to assist people of color. It will not advantage poor people. Our people will experience mistakes, and undue pressure to end our lives. Physician assisted suicide is bad public policy. Mistakes will happen, and people will unnecessarily die. Colorado can do better for our residents.
* Pew Research Center’s poll on “Views on End-of-Life Medical Treatments,” November 2013. National telephone survey of adults (18+) living in all 50 states and D.C. Results based on 1,994 interviews (970 landline; 1,024 cell phone) in English and Spanish as appropriate, from March 21 to April 8, 2013. Margin of error ±2.9%.http://www.pewforum.org/2013/11/21/views-on-end-of-life-medical-treatments/