Assisted Suicide Is Bad Medicine. How Can Legislators Represent Us If They Cannot Talk to Us?

Editor’s note. This press release from Second Thoughts Connecticut was originally published by Not Dead Yet and reposted by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

January 11, 2021 (Manchester, CT) – People with disabilities fear for their lives during the pandemic, and like everyone else must socially distance. At the same time, they are increasingly concerned that assisted suicide legislation—which they also see as a threat to their lives—will be introduced during the 2021 session.

In previous years, the grassroots disability rights group, Second Thoughts Connecticut, has launched an energetic protest against these dangerous bills. Members have started the session by leaving informational flyers for every member of the Connecticut General Assembly and the Governor. They have sponsored press conferences and held lobby days at the Capitol. Perhaps most importantly, they have met with legislators one-on-one or in small groups, and come out in force to participate in public hearings. 

Things are very different during the pandemic. 

With legislators primarily working from home, there is no opportunity to set up appointments at the Legislative Office Building or drop in to talk with legislators or their aides. In the past, aides’ names and email addresses were listed on the webpage of each legislator. Not this year. Legislators receive a huge amount of email, and without aides to help dig through it, not everything gets looked at or responded to. 

Members of Second Thoughts Connecticut started contacting key legislators in early December with almost no response. To date, repeated requests to set up Zoom meetings with various legislators regarding the problems inherent in assisted suicide laws have been met with little or no response, and just one meeting has been scheduled. 

Time is of the essence. 

On Friday, January 15, the Public Health Committee will start identifying bills to bring to a public hearing. Yes, interested people may watch the proceedings on YouTube, but critical elements will be missing. There will be no opportunity to buttonhole legislators, or to show our concern by being present in the audience. 

“How can our legislators represent us if they cannot talk to us?” asked Second Thoughts member Lisa Blumberg. “Access to our elected officials is how our democracy works.” 

Cathy Ludlum of Second Thoughts Connecticut offered, “People form opinions about assisted suicide based on what they know. If they see it only as a civil right, and are never told about all the things that can go wrong—from misdiagnosis, incorrect or uncertain prognosis, coercion and abuse; to problems with the suicide drugs themselves—how can they make an informed decision?” 

She added, “And this is a BIG decision. If assisted suicide passes, it will forever change the way healthcare is provided. At a time when we are already concerned about disparities in healthcare, it will adversely affect people’s lives, especially those of us who are already societally devalued.” 

Second Thoughts Connecticut member Stephen Mendelsohn said, “Assisted suicide legislation codifies lethal disability discrimination into law. Some people will get suicide prevention and others suicide assistance, and the difference will be based on their disability status.” 

Mendelsohn further explained, “Even the so-called safeguards of ‘six months,’ ‘terminally ill,’ ‘mentally competent,’ and ‘self-administer’ discriminate on the basis of disability and are vulnerable to court challenge. This would lead to expansion to widespread euthanasia. Assisted suicide would also conflict with the State of Connecticut Suicide Prevention Plan 2020-2025, which acknowledges the right of disabled people to equal suicide prevention services.” 

Lisa Blumberg went on to say, “Assisted suicide is a very complex issue. Passions run high on both sides, as we saw by the 12-hour public hearings of previous years. This is not the time to make this decision because there is no way people can meet to fully discuss the ins and outs.” Second Thoughts Connecticut is a grassroots organization of people with disabilities and allies who oppose the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.