Thursday, September 17, 2020

John Kelly Testifies At Massachusetts Health Equity Task Force Public Hearing

On Wednesday, September 16, a public hearing was held by the Health Equity Task Force of the Massachusetts Public Health Committee. The legislative website stated that “[t]he virtual hearing is to receive testimony from the public on findings and recommendations that address health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, pursuant to the Health Equity Task Force established by section 2 of Chapter 93 of the Acts of 2020.”

John Kelly testified on behalf of Second Thoughts Massachusetts:

Thank you. My name is John Kelly and I am the director of Second Thoughts MA: disability rights advocates against assisted suicide. We also oppose policies, actions, and media that demean the lives of disabled people, such as the state’s Crisis Standards of Care and lack of attention to suicide prevention services for disabled people.

Under pressure from advocates, the Department of Public Health has dropped from its Crisis Standards of Care some of the discriminatory criteria for triage decision-making. But it continues to insist on using estimated five-year survival rates against disabled people ....

The Office of Civil Rights confirmed this discrimination in its settlement with Utah, writing that “Survivability is a factor that can be fraught with speculation, mistaken stereotypes, and assumptions about the quality of life and lifespan of people with disabilities.” In a triage situation, Utah, and thus Massachusetts, can only consider “short-term mortality.” Massachusetts must make an individualized assessment based on the most objective information available.

DPH must also consider disabled people worthy of suicide prevention services. In May, I attended DPH’s annual suicide prevention conference, and was shocked to hear a presentation wholly centered on assisted suicide, including a timeline stretching from Socrates to Emile Durkheim to Jack Kevorkian!

But three quarters of Kevorkian’s victims were not terminally ill. They were disabled and depressed. In Oregon, the reported end-of-life concerns are all about existential distress regarding disability. People ashamed about depending on others, humiliated by feeling like an undignified burden, or who are traumatized by incontinence get only suicide completion services.

In this state, suicide prevention organizations tacitly support assisted suicide by not taking a position against it. The State’s suicide prevention plan offers almost nothing to us.

DPH should adopt Connecticut’s commitment to preventing disabled people’s suicides. Its plan acknowledges that assisted suicide negatively impacts disabled people, because of its operating principle that disability is a fate worse than death. We disabled people have a right to and demand responsive suicide prevention services.

To conclude, disabled people in this state, as much as anyone, deserve equal medical care and suicide prevention services. We disabled people are human beings who demand full respect from our state. Thank you.