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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Assisted Suicide: Some Get the Inherent Dangers

One blog I faithfully read is Not Yet Dead Yet. Founded in 1996 I have learned to respect the work of Stephen Drake and Diane Coleman. While I do not always like the tone or tenor of Not Dead Yet advocacy, I never question the factual basis upon which they base their views. I have often found gems on the their blog and yesterday was a perfect example. Last week Not Dead Yet noted that the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (OPA) had filed a motion to intervene in the Connecticut assisted suicide case Blick v. Division of Criminal Justice. Not Dead Yet provided a link and long quotes from the affidavit of James D. McGaughey, Executive Director of the Connecticut of the OPA. For those that want to read the entire affidavit please visit Not Dead Yet. I would just like to stress and quote one part of what Mr. McGaughey wrote in large part because it reinforces what I believe are the dangers of disability and assisted suicide.

To quote Mr. McGaughey: "During my service at the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, the agency has represented individuals with significant disabilities who faced the prospect of, or actually experienced discriminatory denial of beneficial, life-sustaining medical treatment. In most such cases physicians or others involved in treatment decisions did not understand or appreciate the prospects of people with disabilities to live good quality lives, and their decisions and recommendations sometimes reflected confusion concerning the distinction between terminal illness and disability. In a number of those cases, despite the fact that the individuals with disabilities were not dying, decisions had been made to institute Do Not Resuscitate orders, to withhold or withdraw nutrition and hydration, to withhold or withdraw medication or to not pursue various beneficial medical procedures. In my experience, people with significant disabilities are at risk of having presumptions about the quality of their lives influence the way medical providers, including physicians, respond to them. "

Presumptions about the quality of life for people with a disability abound and none of them are good or remotely positive. These presumptions are based on ignorance. The result is prejudice is common place and the medical establishment is far from immune from bigotry. I know this for a fact as I have often encountered institutionalized bigotry in the medical setting. This can take many forms from inaccessible examination rooms to attitudinal barriers. I never cease to be shocked when this takes place but know it pales in comparison to what others with a disability have experienced. Not Dead Yet will write about some of these cases and experiences in the days to follow. I for one look forward to what promises to be grim but important reading.