Friday, February 26, 2010

Massachusetts and the Tactics of "Pro-Life" Groups.

Marie Sturgis of Massachusetts for Life talks to super-conservative LifeNews about the new bill being discussed in that state that would make Massachusetts the fourth state in the U.S. to legalize aid in dying (also known as, tellingly by particular constituents, assisted suicide, "euthanasia," or Death with Dignity, the latter the name of the bills in Oregon and Washington).

There are a couple of things in this clip from the article that are worth noticing because they represent the "pro-life" attack on aid in dying the world over:

1. The unfounded claim that aid in dying is a "systematic devaluation of human life." Why allowing a patient who is determined to die (by two doctors) within the next six months and found to be mentally sound the right to die as they wish devalues life is unsubstantiated by any statistics - particularly those facts and statistics coming out of Oregon where aid in dying has been legal since 1998. What is unanswered by these claims is the question of how? The claim sounds true enough when unexamined: "killing" is never right or moral or just. And yet the absolutism fails to take in special situations and and personal choice.

2. Aid in dying "brings on sadness and sorrow." No studies have ever shown that the family members of those who choose aid in dying suffering more than those who die what "pro-life" groups call a "natural death" (largely a misnomer considered how we primarily die of fatal diseases in the current era of modern medicine, hooked up to machines, in a medical facility). Nor are there statistics that show the dying patient suffers more: in fact, the option of aid in dying often gives dying patients a calm that allows them to approach the end of their lives with peace.

The only exception to this is suicide by violent, undocumented, unregulated measures, often perpetrated by a suffering person due to mental instability or the feeling of lack of choices. Aid in dying, in these ways (mental stability, when all medical options are exhausted, under the guidance of a doctor) is not considered suicide legally. Patients' who select it are already sentenced to death by their terminal disease. Neither are they "giving up on life." They have tried all the known medical options to survive.

3. The way that William Stearn's comments regarding the need for strict regulations are twisted below betrays the right's inability to enter into the necessary nuance of the discussion regarding end of life care. For decades, they have (successfully) portrayed - not only to themselves but to the uneducated, inexperienced public - that any challenge to the state, the church or the medical industry about how we die is immoral and nothing less than "unsavory," "culture of death" factions "preying" on "the vulnerable." The whole of the Right's argument is based on the "immoral" desire to "kill" by aid in dying advocates, yet this argument does not hold up when you examine the desire for the latter to strictly regulate the practice - to the benefit of patients' rights.

To enforce this inaccurate view, the Right has cultivated disability activist supporters. More on use of "vulnerability of the disabled" will come from me as time goes on.

“Once we cross the line and we enter into the realm of the assisted suicide, we all become vulnerable,” Sturgis said. “It begins the systematic devaluation of human life.”

“No society should ever approve to take their own lives, whether it is using a doctor to help them or doing it themselves,” said Sturgis. “This is not death with dignity – it’s a situation that brings on sadness and sorrow.”

Rep. Louis Kafka, a Democrat, is the sponsor of H 1468 would allow patients medically determined to have less than six months to live to request that their doctor prescribe drugs that would kill them.

But even one supporter of the proposal, William Stearns, who said he lost his mother, father and sister to terminal illnesses, said some terminal patients are not able to provide proper consent for an assisted suicide.

He also worried that patients who receive the lethal drugs could accidentally leave them someplace where children or other people could get access to them.

Eileen Lipkind of Stoughton testified for the bill and said her husband, Al Lipkin, asked Kafka to file the bill before he died of stomach cancer.

But disabled people opposed the measure during the Judiciary Committee hearing, including Denise Karuth of Florence -- who is wheelchair bound.

“People ask me, ‘Why would a disability activist be opposed to this?’ ” said Karuth, according to the Milford Daily News. “The movement is based on the fear of loss of control.”

The newspaper said Karuth believes "such a law would make people with disabilities feel like they should die if they couldn't pay their health insurance or were suffering from abuses."

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