Posted: 05 Oct 2021 11:17 AM PDT
Joint Committee on Public Health Public Hearing: End of Life Options – Submitted by Lindsay Baran
October 1, 2021
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Lindsay Baran, and I work as the Policy Director for the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), a national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. We stand with many other national and Massachusetts-based disability rights organizations in opposing An Act relative to end of life options (H. 2381 and S. 1384).
The disability rights community has long believed physician assisted suicide laws pose grave risks to disabled people. For people experiencing terminal illness, disability almost always accompanies that process, and the resulting functional losses become pivotal in the decision-making process. Disability is an inextricable piece of this conversation.
There’s a whole list of reasons why we oppose assisted suicide. What I’d like to briefly address today is the significant risk of abuse disabled folks face when assisted suicide is legal. Disabled people and older adults are at much higher risk of abuse, coercion, and exploitation. All these risks are heightened in the face of assisted suicide being legalized, and the safeguards people claim exist are truly insufficient when it comes to protecting people who are already vulnerable.
While proponents of legalizing assisted suicide claim safeguards will prevent abuse from occurring, the truth is these safeguards are incredibly ineffective. When coupled with problematic monitoring and a lack of meaningful oversight and enforcement mechanisms, they may as well be nonexistent. Proponents will tell you abuse of these laws are rare, but the truth of the matter is, this system was not set up to find them.