I am the secretary of a local pro-life group. We are committed to peaceful outreach where we educate people on issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research and physician assisted suicide. During tonight’s meeting, our treasurer brought up the fact that some bills are being discussed in our legislature which would allow physician assisted suicide. I found a Web site dedicated to stopping physician assisted suicide from becoming legal in my state and saw a form which allowed me to compose a letter to my senators and delegates concerning this bill. I did so, keeping the first sentence in their suggested letter but writing the rest from not only my heart but from my soul. Here is what I wrote.
As your constituent, I’m writing to respectfully ask that you oppose HB 404 and SB 418 – the “End of Life Options Act”.
I am blind. While I live in Elkton, I commute three days a week to Philadelphia, where I work at an agency which serves the needs of visually impaired consumers where many services are provided to assist these consumers to live a normal life, in spite of their visual disability. I teach them how to use computers and smartphones, with software that either speaks or which enlarges the screen, allowing them to do everything their sighted peers are doing with this technology. I also run a computer users’ group for blind and visually impaired users. Many of these consumers never knew that such technology existed and probably assumed that they would be forever shut out from being able to visit Web sites and email their loved ones. Many years ago, many families would have assumed that a blind child would never be able to contribute to society. Yet, in this country and in many other parts of the world, blind people such as myself are able to give something back to the society in which they live. Sadly, even in our own state there are many people who find themselves with a newly acquired disability which they never anticipated. It could be blindness, deafness or others. I work with such people. They walk in my classroom but they walk out knowing there is hope for them. Some people in our state who have disabilities don’t have that hope. Some of them honestly believe that they are no longer able to contribute to society and that there is no longer a place for them. They believe there is no point to living and that the easiest thing to do would be to end their lives. This bill, if passed, would potentially allow these people to convince medical professionals that they are depressed to the point where they can no longer function. You will no doubt argue that a responsible doctor would never consent to ending a patient’s life under these conditions. Of course, a physician will attempt to help by prescribing antidepressants, recommending appropriate therapy and trying to locate appropriate support services. However, many people will resist such treatments and recommendations. A pill can’t solve this particular problem and some people are not ready to receive the appropriate support at the onset of a disability. And so, in these cases, a patient will tell his or her physician that these things cannot remedy the situation and, if this bill passes, will beg the physician to assist in taking his or her life. Many doctors, feeling a misguided sense of compassion, will surely comply.
This is quite a tragedy. I look at all that I have been able to accomplish during my life and the lives of other people with disabilities I have had the privilege of touching. Many of those people went through a depression so deep it seemed that there was no way out. Had those people had the opportunity to seek physician assisted suicide I would never have known them. Those people would have been denied the chance to live a normal and happy life and to be able to give back and pay something forward to society.
Please, I beg you to have mercy on the disabled population of our state and oppose this bill, which could potentially snuff out the unique and precious lives of many disabled people before they realize that their life truly has meaning.