Friday, April 14, 2017

John Kelly, Boston Based Disability Rights Activist, Published in New Mexico

Assisted suicide bill - it deserved to die

John Kelly

By John Kelly | Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 7:00 pm

Thanks to the state Senate’s rejection of the assisted suicide bill, Senate Bill 252, residents of New Mexico can breathe easier. As Sen. Craig Brandt said during last week’s debate, “This bill is dangerous. Doctors make mistakes every day.”

CBS News reported in 2014 that 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed yearly. About 15 percent of people given less than six months to live are not “terminally ill.” Thousands of people “graduate” from hospice yearly. Assisted suicide programs turn the best result under hospice — learning that you weren’t “terminal” after all — into the tragedy of dying with years or decades of life remaining. This reality alone should be enough to stop any assisted suicide proposal cold. We cannot predict the future. The “choice” promised by assisted suicide is an illusion.

Assisted suicide hit the news in 2011, when two doctors petitioned District Court Judge Nan G. Nash to declare assisted suicide constitutional. A few months later, Santa Fe resident Aja Riggs joined the lawsuit after doctors gave her slim chance of surviving aggressive uterine cancer. Judge Nash’s 2014 ruling for the plaintiffs was overturned on appeal. Then the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there was no constitutional right to assisted suicide. More than five years later, Aja Riggs’ cancer is in remission.

During the Senate debate, senators warned that “undue influence” would lead to wrongful deaths. One out of every 10 older New Mexicans is estimated to be abused every year, mostly by adult children and spouses. A caregiver or heir to an estate could help sign a person up, pick up the prescription and then administer the lethal dose without worry of investigation. To receive immunity, they could simply claim to have acted in “good faith.”

With no official witness required at the death, we can’t know whether someone self-administered the drugs.

As a progressive, I am heartened that seven Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the measure.

John B. Kelly is a Boston-based disability rights activist and writer. He is the director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts: Disability Rights Advocates against Assisted Suicide. The group’s website is