Tag Archives: not dead yet

This cute puppy has a deadly secret!

He stands for dehumanization and potentially fatal disrespect for the lives of people with disabilities.  Resist the Cute Puppy of Death — vote No on Proposition 106!

{Image: brown-haired light-skinned woman holding adorable gray puppy, both in lawn chair.}

Who doesn’t love a puppy?  Because of this, puppies advertise everything from toilet paper*, to beer**,  to the Americans with Disabilities Act***.   And likely for this same reason, Official Cute White Woman Brittany Maynard holding the Official Cute Puppy of Death has become the primary image associated with efforts to legalize physician assisted suicide, most recently Colorado’s Proposition 106, cleverly named “End of Life Options,” while offering only one new option:  death.****

The concept of Ultimate Autonomy is compelling, but both Prop 106 itself and the way it’s promoted are deeply dangerous for people with disabilities.  In my view, these are the features that are fatal to Prop 106*****:

  • “Terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live” is a very broad definition, sweeping in many people who would be dead far sooner if not for the life-sustaining drugs and technologies on which they rely, yet there is no provision in Prop 106 for ensuring a candidate for physician assisted death has been offered or even counseled on these drugs or technologies.  Again: one option — death.
  • Two physicians and, in some cases, a psychologist, must verify that the person is “mentally competent,” a term that assesses their rationality but not other psychological conditions like depression or, um, suicidal ideation, conditions that would result in prompt referral for additional counseling in non “terminal” people.  In Amy Hasbrouck’s succinct cartoon:

Image: cartoon showing a person in a wheelchair looking at a building with stairs leading to door labeled "Suicide Prevention Program," and a ramp to a door labeled "Assisted Suicide."

  • Prop 106 sends the message that lives with disabilities that would be terminal without support are “undignified” and not worth living.  As the Denver Post reported:

In 2015, the top three concerns reported in [Oregon and Washington, where it’s already legal] were of the patient being less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable, … steadily losing autonomy,… and losing dignity.

It’s not pain; it’s exclusion, control, and dignity.  Control is something we have more and more technology to address; exclusion and dignity go straight to the heart of a disabiliphobic society. Rather than hand out lethal doses, why not find ways to make “activities that make life enjoyable” more accessible to all?  And why have we defined “dignity” in a way that requires you to be buff, mobile, and continent?  I personally believe that dignity inheres in compassion, love, and a twisted sense of humor, none of which requires continence.

Carrie Ann Lucas summarized the problems in a January 2016 op-ed opposing assisted suicide bills pending in Colorado that were ultimately defeated.  Carrie explains that she would be eligible for death under the terms of the bill:

I am a person with multiple disabilities, including a progressive neuromuscular disease that has caused me to lose muscle function throughout my entire body. I have a gastrostomy tube, and I am dependent on a ventilator to breathe. Without my ventilator, I don’t have years to live. I don’t have six months, six weeks, or six days — I have hours. . . . I have a terminal condition — very much like ALS — and if assisted suicide were legal, I would qualify.

Though she qualifies for a lethal dose, Carrie is instead a leading disability rights lawyer and the sort of mom who makes sure her kids know how to cook and fish and protest social injustice. And!  Carrie has a puppy, too!  Her puppy is even cuter than The Cute Puppy of Death.  Her puppy is named Dart, after disability rights hero Justin Dart.

Support Dart, The Avenging Puppy of Disability Rights:  Vote No on 106!

Image: 9 week old black lab puppy laying on his human, sleeping with ears flopped out.

You can learn more at these sites:

******Footnotes********

*Linked image shows Labrador puppy on his back, covered with rose petals, advertising Cottonelle toilet paper.

** Linked image shows white guy in ball cap holding a Labrador puppy up to a fence, in which a bottle of Budweiser is perched; a horse looks at the beer bottle from the other side of the photo.

*** Linked image shows one slide from my attempt to explain Title III of the ADA using a photo of our 6-week-old golden retriever puppy with the words, “Title III of the ADA governs businesses like stores, restaurants, and theaters.”

**** As the inimitable Ingrid Tischer once said, how about if the options included adequate, accessible health care, attendant care, durable medical equipment and technology, and pain relief.   I’m pretty sure Ingrid said this, but I couldn’t find a link while I was drafting this, but also didn’t want to take credit for the thought when I’m pretty sure I read it on Tales From the Crip.

***** The official voter guide sets out the opposition thus:

1) Encouraging the use of lethal medication by terminally ill people may send the message that some lives are not worth living to their natural conclusion. People who are in the final stages of life are often in fear of the dying process. The availability of medical aid-in-dying may encourage people to make drastic decisions based on concerns about the potential loss of autonomy and dignity, not realizing that modern palliative and hospice care may effectively address these concerns. Services such as pain and symptom management, in-home services, and counseling can help individuals navigate the end of their lives while minimizing suffering. Promoting medical aid-in-dying may lead to a reduced emphasis on treatment and development of new options for end-of-life care.

2) Proposition 106 creates opportunities for abuse and fraud. The protections in the measure do not go far enough to shield vulnerable people from family members and others who may benefit from their premature death. Proposition 106 allows a family member or heir to be one of the witnesses to a request for the medication, potentially subjecting the individual to coercion. The measure does not require that a physician have any specific training in order to make an assessment of the individual or require independent verification that the medication was taken voluntarily or under medical supervision. Proposition 106 fails to ensure that the lethal medication will be stored in a safe location, potentially placing others at risk or leading to its misuse.

3) Proposition 106 may force physicians to choose between medical ethics and a request to die from a person for whom they feel compassion. The measure compromises a physician’s judgment by asking him or her to verify that an individual has a prognosis of six months or less to live, yet fails to recognize that diagnoses can be wrong and prognoses are estimates, not guarantees. The measure also requires that the physician or hospice director list the terminal illness or condition on the death certificate, which requires these professionals to misrepresent the cause of death.

Dignify THIS!

I’m done. I’m done being polite.* I’m done shutting up about good liberals who seem to get every sort of civil rights and civil liberties except the equality of rights, respect, and dignity of our brothers and sisters with disabilities. I’m done with disability rights as a “when we get around to it” right. I’m done with people who are willing to use respectful terminology except — *big sigh* — avoiding using the word “retard” is just one step too far toward thought control.  And I’m done with “civil rights” law firms in inaccessible offices and “civil rights” lawyers who don’t hire interpreters. I’m done.

What pushed me over the edge was this voicemail, from a fellow attorney who would, I believe, describe himself as favoring civil rights. I suppose it’s my one last shred of not-yet-quite-doneness that leads me to keep him anonymous.

But who he thinks he is and who his words and actions show him to be should not be anonymous. It needs to be out there for good liberals — chock full of self-righteousness and non-disabled privilege — to observe and perhaps see themselves.  And become real civil rights lawyers by according people with disabilities the same rights and respect you accord other groups you work so hard for.

First let’s play the “protected class switcheroo” game. Imagine I got this voicemail:

Hey Amy, [Name Redacted] here. Trying to get in touch with you and/or Tim. I’m working with a group that is sponsoring legislation to increase penalties for disrespecting police officers. They got bogged down because of some African-American, ah, community concerns – said it would be used as a sword instead of a shield. Um, I think it’s miscommunication. I think the African-American community should be absolutely in favor of it and I wanted to hook up with folks, the right folks, in the African-American community and I thought you would know the behind the scenes politics of who best to contact. . . . .

Pretty gross, eh? No good liberal would talk that way, at least not in public in 2015. This is, in fact, the voicemail I received. Verbatim.

Hey Amy, [Name Redacted] here. Trying to get in touch with you and/or Tim. Um, I’ve done work in the past through when I was at the ACLU with the Hemlock Society; they’re now the Compassion and Choices organization and they sponsored some legislation about right to choose or to refuse treatment. They got bogged down because of some disability, ah, community concerns – said it would be used as a sword instead of a shield. Um, I think it’s miscommunication. I think the disability community should be absolutely in favor of it and I wanted to hook up the Compassionate Choices people with folks, the right folks, in the disability community and I thought you would know the behind the scenes politics of who best to contact. . . . .

And here is my response:

[Name Redacted] –

Thanks for your voicemail.  I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence that there was no miscommunication on the disability rights side.  The position of CCDC, Not Dead Yet Colorado, and a long list of prominent disability rights groups opposing physician assisted suicide is well thought out and thoroughly researched.  I can’t possibly improve on the information on NDYCO’s website, so I’ll provide a link:  http://www.notdeadyetcolorado.org/.

To be clear, Colorado’s bill was not about refusing treatment:  anyone can do that at any time without the proposed legislation.  It is also not about choices:  we can all choose to buy a gun and shoot ourselves; to drive in front of a train; to stop eating and drinking; etc.  Instead, the discussion revolves around getting a doctor to assist you in killing yourself to avoid — tracking the title of the bill — an undignified death.  What is characterized as “lack of dignity,” however, are conditions that many people with disabilities live and thrive with every day:  the need for a vent; a feeding tube; colostomy; urostomy; assistance with activities of daily living.  Statistics from Oregon, for example, a state that has legalized assisted suicide, demonstrate that people do not chose assisted suicide to relieve intractable pain — the purpose for which it has been sold to the public — but rather to address perceived loss of autonomy, inability to engage in activities of daily living, and loss of dignity.

These perceptions and the urge to kill oneself over them result directly from a society that does not value people with disabilities — and such perceptions are (circularly) reinforced by bills like these and the rhetoric that surround them.  Assisted suicide is urged in an environment in which people with disabilities do not have universal access to attendant care in their homes and communities, to assistive technology and mobility devices, to accessible vehicles or modifications, or to home modifications — hell, to accessible homes to start with.  These are all things that people need to continue to live — with dignity — in the community.  In the absence of this sort of support, many disabilities fit the bill’s definition of “terminal,” making it the worst sort of health care rationing:  cheaper dead than disabled.

A bill proposing that it was “undignified” to live as an African-American, an LGBT* person, or — to take an historical example — as a Jew, thereby justifying easy access to death would be rejected with horror.  Yet good liberals appear completely at home with providing a cheap and easy path to death for people with disabilities.

Furthermore, the concerns of people with disabilities reflect a great deal of thought and considered analysis; it is patronizing to suggest that they result from miscommunications.  I can’t imagine any other group active in the civil rights dialog that would be the subject of a voicemail like this.  When LGBT* groups oppose civil rights rollbacks, are they perhaps just victims of a miscommunication, which can be corrected by identifying the “right” groups?  How about African-Americans calling for law enforcement reform?  Shall we identify the “right” groups to support our men and women in blue?

The debate over physician assisted suicide has been plagued by this sort of condescension, as liberal and radical disability rights groups are accused of being pawns of religious conservatives, as if incapable of independent thought.  This infantilizing of our movement underscores our fears that disability is so stigmatized that ostensible civil rights champions would rather be dead than disabled.

Ultimately, if the ACLU is devoted to nondiscriminatory civil liberties, it should support a universal right to assisted suicide.  Anyone, anytime, can request a lethal dose, not just those in circumstances defined in terms of a protected classification.  This I would support, though I believe other members of the disability rights community are more compassionate than I am.

I would be happy to put you in touch with any of the groups on this list to help with any miscommunications:

  • Access & Ability Colorado
  • ADAPT
  • ADAPT Colorado
  • Assn of Programs for Rural Independent Living
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • The Center for Rights of Parents with Disabilities
  • Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
  • Disability Rights Center
  • Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
  • Justice For All
  • National Council on Disability
  • National Council on Independent Living
  • National Spinal Cord Injury Association
  • Not Dead Yet USA
  • Not Dead Yet Colorado
  • Patients’ Rights Action Fund
  • TASH
  • The World Association of Persons with Disabilities
  • The World Institute on Disability

Sincerely,

Amy

********

* Yes, I know, there is clear and convincing evidence that I was done with politeness, as a general matter, a long time ago.

“Assisted” Suicide, Prologue

Compassion and Choices and Flowers and Rainbows,* aka Big Suicide,** is pushing bills  to permit people to kill themselves legally.  Not all people, just certain disabled people in danger of dying — and thus living? — in an undignified way.  They’re pushing this in Colorado and it will not surprise you to learn that I’ll have more to say about this when I’m not barreling into a day full of actual work-related tasks.

As a prologue, I leave you with this juxtaposition, which greeted me in my Facebook feed this morning.

Image:  Facebook feed with links by Stephen Drake and Dian Coleman to an article entitled "Opposing An Assisted Dying Law," and immediately below, a link by Prison Legal News to an article entitled, "CIA killed prisoners, made it look like suicide."

More to come.  Meanwhile, the source for calling bullshit on Big Suicide is the excellently Monty-Python-named Not Dead Yet.****

Update:  Not Dead Yet Colorado now has its own website.*****

******

* OK, it’s Compassion and Choices, but they used to be the Hemlock Society, which was at least honest about the fact that they are a bunch of privileged intellectuals who want to be able to off themselves in a philosophically elegant fashion.  Then they focused-grouped the name, I guess, and are now Compassion and Choices, two random nouns meant to make you feel good about them while not really knowing exactly what they do.

** If we can have Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, and Big Sugar,*** why not Big Suicide?

*** Actually, this turns out to be a Canadian blues band, and not a bad one, actually.   The unexpected benefits of blogging.

****  Best. Logo. Ever.

Image:  Logo:  Not Dead Yet -- the Resistance.

***** And badass logo:

Image:  Not Dead Yet logo superimposed on the Colorado state flag.