Source: The Pueblo Chieftain
By: Anita Cameron
Editor’s note: The Colorado General Assembly is considering House Bill 16-1054, which would allow assisted suicides in the state. According to Colorado’s legislative website: “The bill enacts the ‘Colorado End-of-life Options Act’ …, which authorizes an individual with a terminal illness to request, and the individual’s attending physician to prescribe to the individual, medication to hasten the individual’s death. To be qualified to request aid-in-dying medication, an individual must be a capable adult resident of Colorado who has a terminal illness and has voluntarily expressed the wish to receive a prescription for aid-in-dying medication by making two oral requests and a written request to his or her attending physician. An individual who requests aid-in-dying medication may rescind the request at any time, regardless of his or her mental state. The act outlines the responsibilities of the attending physician.”
My name is Anita Cameron. I am a person with multiple disabilities, two of which are degenerative, and one which will take my life.
I represent two organizations that work to preserve the rights and lives of disabled persons: Not Dead Yet and ADAPT.
I am also strongly opposed to a measure currently in the Colorado General Assembly to legalize assisted suicide.
Some people try to disguise this topic with fancy euphemisms; however, I call it what it is: assisted suicide.
It is very important to be up front, clear and honest about what this is. Couching it in pretty language and hiding the truth is disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst.
I am not against people who want to commit suicide. I am against passing a bill that says if you are nondisabled and feel suicidal, you will get help to live, whether you want it or not. But if you are disabled or sick and want to die, you will be seen as brave and helped to die.
This assisted suicide bill is discriminatory because people with certain disabilities and illnesses will get suicide prevention, while others will be encouraged, or even coerced, to kill themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, fear of pain is not the main reason that terminally ill people want to die.
Oregon doctors (where assisted suicide is legal) say the main reasons they issue prescriptions for lethal drugs are because people fear loss of autonomy, less able to engage in activities, loss of control of bodily functions and feelings of being a burden. These are all disability-related issues and concerns.
Beware of this bill as grave dangers lurk in the details.
Unscrupulous family members, caregivers and heirs who would coerce those with prescriptions to fill and take them is only one of the pitfalls of this bill. There is no oversight, no state reporting and no witnesses required at the time of death to say if the medication was taken voluntarily.
In 2014, only 60 percent of Oregon patients who received lethal prescriptions ingested the drugs. What happened to the remaining 62 bottles of deadly pills?
Like Oregon’s, Colorado’s bill is a recipe for disaster.
My concern about this bill is also rooted in culture: As a black Latina, I have never understood support for assisted suicide. I thought that it was some odd thing that privileged white people were into.
My thoughts were confirmed when I learned that the Pew Research Center recently found that while 54 percent of whites supported assisted suicide, 65 percent of blacks and Latinos opposed it.
My final reason for opposing this assisted suicide bill is that people already have the right to die. Treatment and nutrition can be refused.
A person can find ways to kill him- or herself without involving doctors and the law. People can kill themselves without changing the health care system that all of us depend on, and without putting my rights and my life, or those I care about in jeopardy.
I want to live!
Anita Cameron has been involved in social justice and disability rights activism for 34 years. Her passions include transportation, voter access for people with disabilities, emergency preparedness and the fight against assisted suicide. Anita is a member of the board of directors of Not Dead Yet. She lives in Denver.
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