Editor’s note. This article was published by Not Dead Yet on June 16.
The situation was tense. The Maine State Senate had pulled off a stunner by passing assisted suicide bill LD 347 by a vote of 16-15. We were nervous because two years ago, it was the Senate that saved the day by stopping a bill passed by the House.
Now we had to place our hopes in the House to prevent a huge win for assisted suicide proponents. Even though Gov. Paul LePage promised to veto any bill coming out of the legislature, assisted suicide proponents would be able to confidently claim victory in the wait for a supportive governor.
The entire House took the bill up on May 23, and after a short debate, defeated LD 347 by a vote of 85-61. Relief! It was especially gratifying because a number of legislators used arguments from Not Dead Yet and Second Thoughts testimonies against assisted suicide to oppose the bill.
Rep Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea, Maine, used Not Dead Yet and Second Thoughts Massachusetts’ testimony in two separate short speeches, which we have now captioned and put up on YouTube. She stressed two things, the inevitability of misdiagnosis cutting short people’s lives (captioned video here youtube.com) and the impossibility of knowing whether someone actually self-administered the drugs because no witness is required at the death (captioned video here ).
Rep Sanderson referred to one of our best examples of how legalized assisted suicide puts people at risk who are not dying. Sanderson did not mention Jeanette Hall by name, but described the letter she wrote to the Boston Globe.
Jeanette wrote that she voted for assisted suicide, and when she received her own terminal diagnosis, she asked her doctor for the lethal drugs. But her doctor persuaded her to try more treatment, and Jeanette learned that she wasn’t dying after all! Now more than a decade later, Jeanette urges people to reject assisted suicide.
Rep Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, Maine, made two strong arguments against the legalization of assisted suicide. First, it increases opportunities for and the likelihood of elder abuse. She refers directly to Not Dead Yet President and CEO Diane Coleman on the ease with which an abusive caregiver could engineer a suicide. She brought up the inevitability of suicide contagion, as adolescents compare their own troubles to the accepted suicides of older people. Her captioned video is here.
Rep Beth Turner of Burlington, Maine, rejected proponents’ arguments that it is all about individual choice. She followed Not Dead Yet in declaring the obvious:
“We don’t live in pure isolation. One person’s decision to end their life and one legislator’s decision to sanction it would surely impact all of us. It would also send a message that some people are less valued, less worthy. That some lives deserve suicide assistance rather than suicide prevention.”
It’s now been 21 years since Not Dead Yet formed to fight Jack Kevorkian and the death machine he used on distraught disabled people, more than half of whom were not terminal in any way. We swarmed the trial that finally put him behind bars. We have gone from being ignored to being quoted during legislative debates. So please keep writing letters, op-ed’s, and testimony – our hard work is paying off!