Another end-of-life study bill is coming to Concord. This year’s version is SB 490, with a dozen co-sponsors led by Sen. Martha Hennessey (D-Lebanon). The hearing is Thursday, February 8, at 1:15 p.m. in room 100 of the State House.
I take as skeptical a view of this as I did of earlier “study” bills. Any end-of-life study commission that does not start out by explicitly ruling out assisted suicide as an acceptable policy will only serve to pave the way for an assisted suicide law.
Assisted suicide is up for discussion again at the Massachusetts State House – for the eighth time, according to the Boston Herald. The Joint Committee on Public Health held a public hearing on September 26 on a pair of bills “relative to end of life options” (H.1194 and S.1225). I went to Boston to stand alongside Massachusetts residents giving public witness against state-sponsored medically-prescribed killing.
I was happy to meet C.J. Williams, a Brighton resident who’s director of outreach and education with Rehumanize International. We had connected online some weeks ago regarding the life issues. She greeted me outside the State House and introduced me to other people who had come to fight the bills. She then spent an hour calmly engaged in sidewalk conversations with people inquiring about the legislation, before she headed into the State House for the hearing.
The hearing room was full, with strong feelings and beliefs evident on all sides. Sponsors and supporters of the bills talked about safeguards, autonomy, choice, and “gentle passing.” That last term was offered by Dan Diaz, widower of Brittany Maynard, now an activist with Compassion and Choices. C&C is the current avatar of what was once the Hemlock Society.
Rooms A1-A2 at the Massachusetts State House were filled for the assisted suicide hearing.
Dan Diaz (blue jacket) testified in favor of legalizing assisted suicide in Massachusetts.
The hearing was scheduled to last all afternoon, and I was only able to stay for the first hour. One of the people I heard was Kristine Correira, a physician’s assistant, who warned of the threat posed to Catholic hospitals by the proposed law. She testified that the bills would require health care providers unwilling to participate in assisted suicide to refer patients to other providers – and to pay for the transfer – in violation of the conscience rights of providers opposing medically-prescribed killing. “Is it your intention to close down all the Catholic hospitals?” A fair question, and one which remained unanswered at the time I left.
The Boston Herald’s account of the hearing mentioned testimony from Timothy Shriver, son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics. “Beware the law of unintended consequences,” he said. People with disabilities are “vulnerable to the calculations of human values.”
The Hampshire Gazette’s coverage of the hearing included a warning from Jacqueline Rivers, executive director of the Seymour Institute on Black Church and Policy Studies, about the legislation’s potential effect on people living in poverty. “Poor black and brown people will be affected by the subtleties of societal pressure.”
The Gazette report continued, “[Rivers] said those communities are often underserved already when it comes to palliative and hospice care and the availability of physician-assisted end-of-life options might put pressure on poor families to make a choice not to spend money on treatment and care if this bill were passed.”
By any other name…
On the way to the hearing room, I saw a notice affixed to a wall, pointing the way to the “Aid in Dying” hearing. The bills themselves are titled “End of Life.” One news outlet headlined its coverage with “…bill to allow terminally ill to end their lives peacefully,” while another went with “right to die.” I find “assisted suicide” a more apt term. There was no shortage of names for what was on the table.
At last count, six states and the District of Columbia have legalized assisted suicide.
John Kelly of Not Dead Yet has made his way to a lot of places – including New Hampshire’s State House – to fight assisted suicide bills. He has had to fight in his own home state, Massachusetts. He’s been successful. And still, the bills keep coming back. September 26 in Boston: I’ll be there.
ASSISTED SUICIDE HEARING! Tuesday, September 26th, 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., Massachusetts State House. The Joint Committee on Public Health will be having a public hearing on assisted suicide bills H. 1194 /S.1225.
We win when we show up. All devalued communities are under threat: disabled people, people of color, old people, ill people, LGBTQ people, poor people, autistic people, people experiencing depression, abused people, and more. Even wealthy people are endangered because family might care more about inheriting an estate than caring for a seriously ill person. And everyone is at risk for misdiagnosis.
We need you to come testify for 3 minutes, or come and support people who are testifying . Everyone who comes will be making a difference!
Wealthy proponent group [C]ompassion & [C]hoices thinks they can pass the bill. Let’s say different with people power!
This is life-or-death, people. Solidarity.
Solidarity is right. I’ve worked against such bills in Concord. I’ve traveled to Boston and Hartford to stand by New England neighbors tackling their own state’s bills. The victories, meaning the defeats of assisted suicide legislation, happen after hearing rooms fill up with people who hate the better-dead-than-disabled ethic.
John wrote, we win when we show up. True, as is the reverse: the day we don’t show up is the day we lose.
The Works of Mercy ministry at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish in Rochester, New Hampshire has put together another program (they’re good at this sort of thing) exploring the life issues. This time, the topic is assisted suicide and euthanasia, which threaten the very nature of end-of-life care.
Two of the five speakers are well-known to me: Nancy Elliott is the director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA, and Kurt Wuelper is a state representative. Nancy is a neighbor of mine, a former state rep, and I don’t think anyone in this neck of the woods knows more than she does about the status of end-of-life legislation nationwide. Kurt has proven adept at one of the harder political jobs: not just getting elected, but getting RE-elected. Kurt is on one of the toughest committees in Concord: House Judiciary, where he is a voice of reason.
This should be a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday. Details as I’ve been advised:
Where: Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, 189 N. Main Street, Rochester NH
When: Saturday, March 18, 2017, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Schedule: For those who wish, there will be a Mass at 8:00 a.m. All conference participants are welcome to breakfast during registration time beginning at 8:30. The conference begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
Cost & Registration: $15, with scholarships available; payment by March 15 is appreciated. Make out checks to OLHR, and mail them with registration form (linked above) to Works of Mercy c/o OLHR, 189 N. Main Street, Rochester NH 03867.
For more information, contact Nancy at email@example.com.
Spread the word, especially to your friends on the Seacoast and in Strafford County.
(h/t to the Diocese of Manchester and the Catholic Education Resource Center for bringing this to my attention.)
Assisted suicide is now legal in California. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles is not mincing words as he responds to this human rights disaster. His inspiring statement is full of challenge and resolve. A few excerpts:
With the new “End of Life Options” law we are crossing a line — from being a society that cares for those who are aging and sick to a society that kills those whose suffering we can no longer tolerate.
Our government leaders tell us that granting the right to choose a doctor-prescribed death is compassionate and will comfort the elderly and persons facing terminal and chronic illness.
But killing is not caring. True compassion means walking with those who are suffering, sharing their pain, helping them bear their burdens. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not a duty we fulfill by giving our neighbor a lethal dose of pills.
Assisted suicide represents a failure of solidarity and will only increase the sense of isolation and loneliness that many people already feel in our society. With this new law, we are abandoning our most vulnerable and frail neighbors — dismissing them as “not worthy” of our care and as a “drain” on our limited social resources.
…The proper response to an unjust law is conscientious objection. And this is an unjust law.
…A person does not stop being a person, does not lose his or her dignity or right to life — just because he or she loses certain physical or mental capacities. Indeed, it is when people are most vulnerable that they are most in need of our compassion and love.