By John Kelly, New England coordinator – disability rights group Not Dead Yet.
The New Jersey state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed its assisted suicide bill, S382, out of committee on December 15th. Senate President and co-sponsor Steve Sweeney initially said that a full Senate vote would be held on Thursday, the last scheduled full session of the year, but later indicated that the vote would not be called this week. Susan K. Livio of NJ.com reported that “Sweeney said he and other supporters would embark on an ‘educational campaign’ to discuss the matter with colleagues.”
As Dustin Racioppi wrote at NorthJersey.com:
It isn’t known if it has the 21 votes to clear the Senate, though Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has come out in support of the bill. In a statement, he said he believes there “needs to be an honest discussion about this option.”
Speculation is that Sweeney plans to twist some arms – as he may have done in the committee itself – in order to pass a bill and score points against Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has pledged to veto it.
The good news for the people in the crosshairs is that great disability rights activists showed up to testify against the bill, including reportedly a dozen in wheelchairs. From Philadelphia ADAPT and Not Dead Yet came German Parodi and Alan Holdsworth. German said that when he was unconscious after his spinal cord injury 21 years ago, doctors urged his grandmother to “put him down.” We are so glad she didn’t!
Holdsworth was quoted at the bottom of Racioppi’s article:
“What we have is palliative care for the rich and death for the poor. Is that the road we’re really going down here?” said Alan Holdsworth, a member of the group Not Dead Yet.
Meghan Schrader represented Second Thoughts Massachusetts and the millennial generation (which she says is opposed to assisted suicide 54%-45%) in describing disabled foster kids’ distance from the Brittany Maynard idea of personal “autonomy.” Stephen Mendelsohn drove from Connecticut to call out the incredible me-me-me selfishness of Compassion & Choices, the arch-proponents behind the bill. Making assisted suicide just another medical treatment option doesn’t only affect the C&C elite, but also thousands of elders and people with disabilities who must deal with a cost-cutting health care system and sometimes face cruel abuse from family members and caregivers.
Opponents of the bill vastly outnumbered proponents, but it appears that Compassion & Choices, who was not present, was privy to the plan settled before the hearing even began: that amid concerns about safeguards and teen suicide, the bill would be passed out of committee “without recommendation.” That piece of information was revealed by Republican Sen. Bob Singer, who cast his “no” vote.
Two Democrats who voted to pass the bill out of committee, Chair Sen. Joseph Vitale and Sen. Robert Gordon, said they would vote against the bill on the floor.
Fortunately, the strong turn out of disability rights advocates opposing the bill gave everyone a chance to see how we live with dignity while we fight the insultingly named “death with dignity” bills. The C&C zealots don’t care about assisted suicide deaths due to mistakes, coercion and abuse, which they seem to consider as acceptable collateral damage. But none of us are expendable. We’re Not Dead Yet and nothing about us without us.
Editor’s note: This appeared at notdeadyet.org.