[Editor's Note: The press release below is being distributed through PRWeb in pdf format and is available at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/06/prweb11917687.htm. The PRWeb version also includes the actual testimonies as Word attachments.]
Last Friday was the first that disability advocates learned that a New Jersey assisted suicide bill that they oppose would be heard by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on Thursday, June 5 at 10:00 a.m.
"We just learned of the hearing when it was posted at the end of last week," said attorney Anne Studholme who testified against the bill last year on behalf of Not Dead Yet. "I'm aware of at least one physician who wants to testify against the bill but can't because he's scheduled for eight hours of surgery starting in the morning. Short notice doesn't work for surgeons, and I really question the way this hearing was scheduled."
Having seen the many witnesses at last year's hearing, Studholme further noted, "Many organizations with members who are practicing doctors, lawyers, and advocates for disabled people, including people with disabilities that make logistics more time-consuming and difficult, oppose this bill. As recently as last week, we were being told there would be no action on this bill until at least July, if then, and, more likely, in the fall."
Studholme will testify on behalf of Not Dead Yet, as will John Kelly, the organization's New England regional director who testified at hearings that resulted in the defeat of similar legislation in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut earlier this year. Kelly will testify by telephone hook up from Boston.
Kelly's testimony will focus on abuses under the Oregon assisted suicide law. "Only in the fantasy world of the proponents are all families... happily gathered around the peaceful and willing suicide," Kelly plans to testify, referencing an estimated 175,000 cases of elder abuse in New Jersey annually. "The Health and Senior Services Health Committee should not be recommending the introduction of poisonous drugs into abusive situations and then not even require an independent, disinterested witness be present at the dying."
New Jersey based disability organizations and advocates will also testify against the bill. Norman Smith will be testifying as President of Progressive Center for Independent Living and also on behalf of Resources for Independent Living and the Alliance Center for Independence.
In his testimony, which will be spoken by a friend due to his speech impairment, Mr. Smith wrote:
"I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with doctors in emergency rooms. . . .'Better off dead than like that' is in their eyes.
But then I can see their attitude change as they learn that I'm married, that I have a six-year old son, and that I have a job with responsibilities. . . . These are the same people who will be sitting in judgment on whether to prescribe life-ending drugs based on the word of a caregiver."
Another disability advocate is Kate Blisard, who plans to testify as a "disability advocate, businesswoman, wife, mother, and grandmother . . . [and] abuse survivor." Her testimony states:
"Throughout my 30+ year career I have advocated for a better life for those committed to state institutions and nursing facilities. . . . They are vulnerable . . . because their disabilities cause them to be dependent on others. . . . The abuse of elders and especially of people with disabilities is an epidemic in the shadows."
Written testimony was also submitted by Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, and Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.