December 4, 2015
The Honorable Stephen M. Sweeney
935 Kings Highway, Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Dear Senator Sweeney:
We are New Jersey residents and allied organizations, with deep expertise in disability rights, who oppose the provision of suicide by lethal prescription medication. Assembly Bill 2270 "the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act passed the NJ Assembly last year, carving out a loophole to protect physicians, relatives, and others who assist in a patient's suicide, but leaving patients, themselves, dangerously vulnerable.
We understand that the promoters of assisted suicide are pushing the Senate to take up a companion bill, S382, before the end of this session. S382 would permit doctors and pharmacists to prescribe and provide lethal-dose barbiturates (or other lethal drugs) to anyone diagnosed with a disease likely to result in death within the next six months--whether with, or without, treatment, is not specified.
The bills are poorly thought-out and dangerous. S382 will reinforce the incorrect but widespread assumption that the only way to die a peaceful, pain-free death is by ingesting a fatal dose. As even the most ardent promoters of physician-assisted suicide acknowledge, in the words of David Leven, the Executive Director of NY Compassion & Choices, "Pain is not the issue."
All medically knowledgeable participants in the debate on assisted suicide agree that, nowadays, end-of-life pain can be relieved without resort to suicide. This is wonderful news, which far too many laymen are unaware of. It is one reason, in fact, that the American Medical Association opposes these bills. And yet, there is no provision in the bill that the patient be in pain, nor that any form of pain relief have been offered or provided, before the lethal dose is dispensed.
Assisted suicide is also pushed as a way to avoid the so-called "indignity" of being disabled. Already, suicide is most common among aging, white men: the target audience for these assisted-suicide bills, and the population most likely to fear and abhor the idea of becoming dependent on care. We in the disability-rights community recognize the bill's unsubtle nudge toward suicide as "honorable" and preferable to living with any degree of disability. These are honor killings, and the law should not facilitate them.