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By ETHAN ELLIS

ADVOCATE

New Jersey’s State Legislature is considering legislation that
would make it legal for you to kill yourself if you’re in enough pain. New York legislators are reportedly considering doing so, too.

It sounds very compassionate and many of the lawmakers believe it is. After all, who wants to spend their last days, weeks or months lying in bed writhing in pain?

And the idea may have special appeal to those of us who just acquired disabilities and don’t think life is worth living or who are already experiencing pain from the ones we have and dread feeling more. I know that dread because, at 81, I already hurt.

However, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Washington, Vermont and Oregon have passed such legislation and it has been a disaster.

Despite the many safeguards against abuse supposedly built into those laws, it has led to the early deaths of many of us who could have lived longer if given powerful painkillers already on the market.

Why?

This legislation is a matter of dollars and cents, not sense. Behind the scenes, its major supporters will benefit financially from ending the lives of people rendered helpless by needless pain, rather than allowing them to live out their natural lives with dignity by paying for the palliative care that would relieve that pain. They’re easy to identify – health insurance companies, hospitals and, in some states, those officials who control or influence their budgets.

If you doubt it, look behind the experience they often cite as successful in Oregon, where this all started. After the law, on which New Jersey’s bills, S 382 and A 2270 are based, was passed with quiet support from state officials, those same officials removed the strongest, most effective painkillers from the list of drugs eligible for CMS reimbursement, encouraging those in unbearable pain to kill themselves because otherwise reliable relief had been put beyond their reach. (To see more on Oregon’s horrors, see http://dredf.org/public-policy/assisted-suicide/oregon-physician-assisted-suicide-theory-vs-practice/.

These killers go from state to state searching for well-meaning lawmakers to introduce and support their murderous legislation. Then they enlist the help of existing pro-suicide groups like the old Hemlock Society or create their own front groups and fund them lavishly to lobby the legislators and conduct slick public relations campaigns to mislead an equally innocent public of the false mercy they’re preaching.

In New Jersey, A 2270 has already passed the Assembly and had its first Senate Committee hearing. While the bill’s lobbyists presented their testimony in person, we were made to submit ours in writing.

But thanks to some great organizing and help from friends, including DREDF and Not Dead Yet, we still outnumbered the killers and won the support of powerful Senators on the committee. But stay tuned.

We may still need your help to save your lives and ours.

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