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True Dignity Vermont is a grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont. Vermonters deserve true dignity and compassion at the end of life, not the abandonment of assisted suicide. Killing is not compassion, and True Dignity Vermont will work to ensure our end-of-life choices respect the dignity of all Vermont citizens.

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Proponents of legal assisted suicide are always talking about how we put our pets down rather than allow them to suffer.  Years ago, Stephen Drake put that argument to sleep for anyone who actually stops to think:

http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/lets_put_this_pet_theory_to_sleep/

But there is another side to that story.  More and more people are buying wheelchairs and other equipment to allow elderly and handicapped dogs and cats, who would previously have been euthanized,  to live longer and better lives.

This blog post captures the bewilderment and hurt, in the face of this phenomenon, of people with disabilities, who hear, even from relatives, statements such as one of True Dignity’s board members (who has no disability but is elderly) recently heard from her own sister,  in defense of assisted suicide:  “I don’t want to be an invalid.”  http://www.davehingsburger.blogspot.ca/2014/08/a-dogs-valued-life-im-envious.html

We will write more at a future date about increasingly coercive pressure on the elderly and terminally ill and people with disabilities not to accept life-prolonging care.

What, we ask, is so bad, about being an invalid, at whatever time in life?  If it isn’t bad for a dog, why is it bad for a person?  What is becoming of us, that we don’t want to care for people as we do our beloved pets but just want them to die and spare us the cost and trouble, even if getting them out of the way means we aiding them in committing suicide.

This is so very sad.

 

The following article is  from the August 13, 2014 edition of The Washington Post: 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/08/12/suicide-contagion-and-social-media-the-dangers-of-sharing-genie-youre-free/?hpid=z4

The article expresses concern that some of the posts about the death of actor Robin Williams might contribute to suicide contagion, a problem recognized by the US Centers for Disease Control, which issued guidelines for preventing it back in 1994 (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm).  They caution the media, not to conceal suicides, but to avoid repetitive and continuous coverage, any statements that might glorify or romanticize suicide, and detailed descriptions of suicide methods.  Though the article is concerned primarily with a particular Tweet, the media, aided by public authorities, has violated all three proscriptions.

On yesterday’s True Dignity post, our board member Carrie wrote, “Once we legally endorse suicide for some reasons, we begin the conversation about endorsing it for any reason.”

The comments to the Post article reveal the truth of this statement.  They say a lot about how attitudes about suicide have changed since 1994, a time when there was no legal assisted suicide anywhere in the world.  Suicide was once universally lamented, and mourned.  No one doubted that every effort should be made to prevent it.  Many commenters to today’s article defend suicide as a rational and justifiable solution to depression.

In Vermont, now that assisted suicide is legal, doctors are required by law to tell a patient with a terminal condition that assisted suicide is a legally available option, whether or not he or she asks.  Linda Waite Simpson, the state representative of the pro-suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices, recently told a reporter the group opposes suicide in cases of clinical depression but not when the person asking for it is experiencing what she called, “situational depression”, such as might be felt by someone who has received a terminal prognosis.  Today, the media is speculating on the factors in Robin Williams’ life situation that may have contributed to his suicide.  In the Netherlands and Belgium, where both assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, we know that the suffering of depression has come over the years since legalization to be considered an adequate reason for a person to be assisted in suicide or euthanized.  What in the world could lead anyone to think that “safeguards” will be able to distinguish between clinical and situational depression in a way that will protect those whose depression is treatable, especially since the decision about whether to refer a patient for psychological evaluation is left to the discretion of the doctor receiving the request.  VT law takes no account of the fact that studies have shown even terminally ill people can be successfully treated for depression (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1291326/; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10541987.

Safeguards also fail to take into account suicide contagion. The law ignores the fact that statistics in Oregon show a rise in the suicide rate there that began just as the law was beginning to be implemented (3 years after its adoption) and that is consistent with suicide contagion.  The first victims of suicide contagion are always people suffering from depression.

Assisted suicide advocates are traveling across Vermont this summer, holding meetings to recruit doctors and patients for assisted suicide; they call it “education”.    Already they are unashamedly calling assisted suicide “a beautiful death” and encountering no opposition to that term except from True Dignity.  Already they are telling us that depression is not necessarily a disqualifier for assisted suicide.  Make no mistake about it.  Vermont is leading the way down the same slope that is seen in the comments to the Post article, a slope that is very slippery indeed.

 

Again today, my Facebook feed is filled with statements of mourning about yet another reported suicide of a well known person. People who knew Robin Williams only by his public persona are grieved by his untimely death, allegedly at his own hands. We can only imagine the heartbreak being experienced by his friends and family.

And again today, I ask: what is the distinction that allows some to embrace the physician-assisted suicide that is now legal in Vermont, and to abhor the suicide of a man suffering from the deepest pains of depression?

The “Death with Dignity” crowd will tell you that what they promote is different. They say it is not suicide but rather the “hastening” of an inevitable death.

But such distinctions matter not on a slippery slope.   And that is where we are now in Vermont.

Enabling the participation of doctors in the act of suicide promotes the delusion that swallowing a legally-prescribed toxic potion will provide for a more comfortable and compassionate exit than other methods of suicide we might imagine. But in reality, suicide by any method is a messy affair, and that which is assisted by a doctor, a purported healer, is more, not less, macabre.

We will all die eventually, but swallowing doctor-prescribed pills to “hasten” even a death that appears to be coming sooner rather than later belies hopelessness –the same hopelessness that underlies all suicide. Worse than that, legal physician-assisted suicide implies a public judgment about the relative value of some lives. Right now the line is drawn at “terminally ill with a diagnosis of 6 months to live and able to self-administer the pills.”  There is nothing preventing that line from being moved, and ample evidence that it will be moved if we remain on the slippery slope.

Once we legally endorse suicide for some reasons, we begin the conversation about endorsing it for any reason.

Do we mourn the suicide of Robin Williams today and rejoice in the doctor-assisted suicide of a terminally ill friend tomorrow?
I think not.

The Burlington Free Press today published the following excellent letter calling for the repeal of Act 39, the assisted suicide law.  Unfortunately there is also an article on the opinion page in favor of assisted suicide.  The link to the letter is

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/comment-debate/2014/07/30/repeal-physician-assisted-suicide-now/13334997/.  The link to the pro assisted article is http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/comment-debate/2014/07/30/people-end-life-choice/13335007/.

Comments are urgently needed on both articles, but especially on the pro article.  We need to see new names on these comments!  Please help!

Repeal physician-assisted suicide, now

1 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

I’m confused. Years ago we did away with the death penalty in Vermont (and rightly so) because we understood that despite the care and precision of our legal system, mistakes could be made and an innocent person could be wrongly put to death. The Legislature wasn’t willing to take that chance and so abolished the death penalty.

Now we have Act 39 (physician-assisted suicide), another law whose only purpose is to result in the death of one of our citizens. Yet this law, with shockingly few protections and no oversight at all by our judicial system, passed the Legislature.

What is the difference here? A wrongful death is a wrongful death is a wrongful death.

Does the Legislature honestly believe our health care system is so perfect that there is absolutely no chance for error? It doesn’t appear so since the Legislature is spending almost all their time trying to reform health care. That doesn’t leave me feeling confident that the system is working 100 percent perfectly.

So, if the death penalty is wrong because an innocent person might die, why does the Legislature magically believe that no one will ever wrongfully die under Act 39?

Physician-assisted suicide is just as bad a law as the death penalty, and the Legislature needs to repeal it.

Now!

Michele Morin lives in Burlington.

 

An Excellent Article about the American Civil Liberties Union’s campaign to get people to sue doctors, pharmacies and their workers, and medical facilities that refuse to provide assisted suicide services or referrals.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/07/war_on_humans_f088261.html

There’s some good stuff in here.  We may be posting some of these comments on their own in the next few days.  The bad effects of assisted suicide will be the same everywhere.

 

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/140718-0001.htm#14071854000545

Tanni Grey-Thompson is a former wheelchair racer and now a member of Britain’s House of Lords, which today, after more than nine hours of debate, voted to allow a bill to legalize assisted suicide to receive a second reading, a reading that took place immediately after the vote.  This means that the bill has taken an important and scary step towards becoming law.  It could soon be debated and voted on by “a committee of the whole house”.  Several members who are opposed decided not to vote against the bill today, because they it believe should be discussed more extensively, which will happen in the next phase.  If the bill were to become law, it would need to be approved for a third reading, after which a final vote would be taken.  The bill would then have to go through these phases and be voted on in the House of Commons, the elected branch of the British Parliament.  Members on both sides of the issue want to make their case for or against the bill, which we can still hope will be defeated.

During the debate, people with disabilities, members of Not Dead Yet UK, demonstrated outside Parliament.  Lady Grey-Thompson came out to speak to them, and someone filmed the following video.  In it, she speaks with great precision about why most people with disabilities fear and oppose legal assisted suicide.  Already demoralized by  hearing from many people, medical professionals included, in both verbal and non-verbal ways, that a life with disabilities is a life not worth living,  they fear that future conversations will progress from suggestions that they might want to decline medical care for easily treatable conditions to suggestions that they might want a prescription for suicide.

Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson Speaks to People with Disabilities Demonstrating Outside As Britain’s House of Lords Debates Legalizing Assisted Suicide

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