Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-USA letter to Massachusetts legislators opposes assisted suicide proposal

By Sara Buscher

To: President of the Senate Karen E. Spilka,
Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano

RE: S.1384 and H. 2381 An Act Relative to End of Life Options, creating an exception to involuntary manslaughter for physician assisted suicide

Dear President and Speaker:

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA supports positive measures to improve the quality of life of people and their families; we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. We are aging and disability advocates, lawyers, doctors, nurses and politicians.

Please let S.1384 and H.2381 die this session (192nd General Court), while legislators are deeply divided amid heightened concerns about inequities for people of color and those living with disability. Proponents are trying to sell you a pig in a poke. It’s not about polls, pain or a quick, peaceful death. Instead, it spawns more suicides and provides less healthcare. 

It’s Not about Polls 

Proponents are touting a recent poll that pegs public support at 77%. As seasoned legislators, you know support drops off as people learn more which is exactly what happened with the 2012 ballot measure. Back then, support was pegged at 60%+, but fell off leading to the measure’s failure. Polling support may be wide but it isn’t deep. 

It’s Not about Pain

I’m often asked if I want people to die in pain. You probably have been asked that
question, too. The answer is this is not about letting people die in pain. People don’t use these laws to escape pain.

Dr. Lonny Shavelson, a California doctor who helps people die says promoting “aid in dying” as avoiding pain is a political sales pitch. He says people choose assisted suicide because they are low energy or afraid of losing control. 

It’s Not about a Peaceful or Quick Death

Dr. Shavelson says the idea that assisted suicide creates a peaceful beautiful death is another myth. 

Dying this way can be very unpleasant and even painful. People are given “aid in dying” concoctions that burn their throats and extend the dying period. When drugs that had been used in the past became expensive, death doctors experimented on people with other drug cocktails, some of which burned people’s throats causing them to scream in pain and extended the dying process by more than 3 hours and as much as 31 hours. The FDA does not regulate these drugs because they are compounded. Currently severe burning is expected in 10% of cases with drug cocktails now being prescribed by physicians.

Assisted Suicide Spawns More Suicides and Attempted Suicides.

If you enact this law, more people will die by suicide, more will attempt suicide and more will visit Emergency Departments as a result. This is the collateral damage caused by these laws. They send a message that suicide is an acceptable way to solve problems. Publicity about suicide also leads to more suicides; this is called suicide contagion.

Legalization of Assisted Suicide especially impacts youths. A 2019 report found teen suicides in California increased by 34% since that state legalized Assisted Suicide in 2016. Oregon’s youth suicides increased 79.3% from 2000 to 2018. Research about completed suicides in four states that legalized Assisted Suicide (Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana) found it was associated with at least a 6.3% increase in the rate of all suicide deaths

According to the 2020 Massachusetts Public Health Data Brief, 615 people died by suicide in 2020. There were 591 monthly Emergency Department visits for attempted suicide (7,092 per year) and 4,882 visits per month for suicidal ideation (58,584 per year) during 2019 to early 2020. 

A 6.3% increase following enactment would result in more deaths and need for medical care.

  • Fatal Suicides 39 more people would die by suicide 
  • ED visits, Attempted Suicides 447 more ED visits, following suicide attempts 
  • ED visits, Suicidal Ideation 3,690 more ED visits for suicidal ideation

Insurance Companies Use Assisted Suicide to Deny Curative Life-Saving Treatment 

Insurers stop covering certain treatments due to the availability of Assisted Suicide. Dr. Brian Callister of Nevada says he was stunned when insurance would not cover life saving treatment for his patients who were transferring to California and Oregon, but the company offered to pay for Assisted Suicide instead. These were people who could be cured with the denied treatment rather than being rendered terminal. In effect, Assisted Suicide is being used to shunt people off the curative, restorative medicine track, especially if they cannot afford to pay for treatments out
of pocket.

People of color understand this will be used to provide them poorer care

Even with insurance, people of color get poorer hospital care and pain relief according to a New York Times article. They are still disproportionately dying of COVID-19. So, it is unsurprising that Black and Latinx people oppose Assisted Suicide by 2-1 margins ‒ “… the voting results from Ballot Question 2 in 2012 show Assisted Suicide pits wealthier, whiter districts against those with poorer people and people of color according to Second Thoughts – Massachusetts. 

In closing, I urge you to let this bill die. 

Sincerely,
Sara Buscher, Chair
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA