Disability rights activists from across the state will be testifying Friday before the Colorado legislature’s House Committee on Public Health Care and Human Services in opposition to HB-1135, which would legalize assisted suicide in the state. The group called Not Dead Yet opposes assisted suicide as a deadly form of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people.
The hearing begins upon adjournment of the House in Room 271 at the State Capitol.
“Disabled lives are devalued by medical professionals and society at large. Mistakes will be made, and unnecessary deaths will occur,” said Carrie Ann Lucas of Not Dead Yet Colorado. “Many people with disabilities have been incorrectly diagnosed as terminally ill, when in fact, they have a long fruitful life in front of them.”
According to Oregon’s assisted suicide reports, 97.6% of program suicides in Oregon have been white, in a state 22% nonwhite. “Assisted suicide proponents are also overwhelmingly white,” said Anita Cameron, a longtime disability activist, and Not Dead Yet board member. “The Pew Research Center reported in a detailed 2013 study that, while whites support assisted suicide 53%-44%, black and Latino voters register 65% opposition.”
“Despite what the proponents claim, people do not generally ask to end their lives due to unrelenting pain,” said Cameron. “The suicide factors identified in the Oregon assisted suicide reports, perceived loss of autonomy, loss of dignity, and decreasing ability to be active are completely disability issues,” she said.
Carrie Ann Lucas uses a motorized wheelchair and employs personal care attendants to assist her in activities of daily living. “Why do some people equate needing help with basic bodily functions to a loss of dignity?” Lucas said. “There is something wrong with society if people would rather die of embarrassment than utilize assistance.”
“In a state with nearly 11,000 reports of elder abuse a year, it is appalling that this bill does not protect people from being pressured to end their lives at the onset of any condition that doctors perceive to be terminal within 6 months,” said Josh Winkler, a Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition board member. “This bill allows the introduction of poisonous drugs into abusive situations, and then does not even require an independent, disinterested witness be present at the death.”
Windsor resident Robin Stephens, who will be submitting written testimony said, “I have been at the bedside of a disabled woman with a spinal cord injury. Doctors so devalued her life that they encouraged her to disconnect her ventilator. She went on to live a rich life. Now we want doctors without any psychiatric training to determine if a disabled person is making a rational decision to end their life.”
“Colorado’s suicide rate is among the highest in the nation,” said Cameron. “This bill will promote suicide to one class of disabled citizens, rather than provide suicide prevention. That is discrimination.”
Lucas pointed out, “Everyone has the right to refuse or stop further medical treatment. People also have the right to receive palliative sedation to alleviate pain. Assisted suicide is simply not necessary.”