In your article (Capitol Weekly Commentary, Nov. 10) on Proposition 73, you
mention that Californians’ Coalition Against Suicide includes members of the
disability community. I am writing to you both as a medical professional and
as a person with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I also am the president of Scholl
Institute of Bioethics (an organization not affiliated with any religious
institutions) that strives to uphold the protection of the rights of
individuals to receive adequate medical care.
The author speaks of the unintended consequence of the recent election, but
you have ignored the unintended consequences of legalized assisted suicide:
Even with all the so-called safeguards of AB 651, it cannot prevent an
individual with inadequate health coverage from being pressured and coerced
to choose physician assisted death, when the treatment options given to him
by his doctors are to either spend thousands of dollars in medical bills to
manage his pain and symptoms or to spend only a small fee of $50 to $75 for
physician-assisted suicide. What choice is that?
If we give the right to assisted suicide only to individuals who are able to
swallow the medications on their own, how can we discriminate against a
person who is paralyzed or has a feeding tube?
Personally, as a nurse, I was never taught to kill my patients and I hope
that will never be included in any medical professional’s education here in
As a person with a disability and as a nurse, I know firsthand what is like
to be depressed from receiving a life-threatening or life changing
diagnosis. If assisted suicide had been available when I was diagnosed 20
years ago, I might have chosen the easier or at least cheaper way out,
especially when I lost my health insurance and had to wait several years
before receiving disability payments and then another 2 years before being
eligible for Medicare.
No matter what you call it, suicide, either through a bottle of pills or
from pulling a trigger, is never death with dignity.
Molly Grace Israel
Scholl Institute of Bioethics, president
In a recent commentary [Capitol Weekly, Nov. 10], Assembly Member Patty
Berg’s press secretary, Will Shuck, suggested that the defeat of Proposition
73 may signal new political strength for supporters of Berg’s AB 651. He
goes on to suggest that virtually all of the opposition to the bill is
coming from the religious right and political conservatives.
What he fails to acknowledge in any way is the fact that more than a dozen
state and national disability organizations–and many prominent disability
rights advocates–oppose this bill and have raised very significant concerns
about potential abuse, lack of enforceable safeguards, and financial
incentives that would further undermine the operation of our increasingly
cost-driven, health-care system.
Mr. Shuck’s piece treats the disability opposition as if it doesn’t exist,
when he knows better. It is our opposition that concerns supporters the
most–precisely because the authors don’t have satisfactory answers to the
issues we have raised.
Laura Remson Mitchell
California Disability Alliance