“She rallied,” Cameron said, and after six months in hospice, her mother was released and “lived almost 12 years” after being told she had less than a week to live.
The prejudices of doctors also increase the danger of assisted suicide laws to people with disabilities, she said.
“Due to the view of doctors that disabled people have a lower quality of life, therefore leading them to devalue our lives,” she said. Assisted suicide, said Cameron, runs counter to the values she and other racial minorities were raised in.
“I didn’t see assisted suicide as part of my culture,” said Cameron, who is Black. She added that a majority of racial minorities are consistently opposed to assisted suicide, and rarely use the procedure when it is legal. Those who opt for it “tend to be white professionals and managerial-class folks,” she said.
Cameron believes that the medical system must address its disparities before making it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal medications to vulnerable patients. Until that happens, “doctor-assisted suicide has no place in Maryland, or our nation.”
Annette Hanson, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist who works in state-operated mental hospitals, criticized the pro-assisted suicide faction for using dangerous methods to promote its cause.
She warned of an existing “suicide contagion,” and added that the way suicides are reported in the media can result in an increase of suicide. Anti-suicide organizations have provided media training to journalists on how to properly report suicides, with a heavy emphasis on not glamorizing the act of self-destruction.
“The right to die movement took just the opposite approach,” she said, citing the 2014 death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman from California who sought to end her life due to a battle with brain cancer. Maynard was unable to recieve assisted suicide in California as the practice was not legal at the time; she eventually moved to Portland, Oregon, where it was legal.
“Compassion and Choices created a donation and membership website around [Maynard],” Hanson said. Since Maynard’s death, seven states--including California--have enacted physician-assisted suicide laws.
Hanson noted that for a person suffering from paranoia or other mental issues, finding out their doctor could legally prescribe lethal medication serves would “reinforce their delusion, and that’s really bad for psychiatric care.”
Politicians, she said, need to realize that legalizing assisted suicide would also result in the incarcerated and those in psychiatric institutions being able to ask a doctor to end their lives.
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“Our politicians need to think about, ‘how is the government going to carry this policy out in their facilities,’” said Hanson. “What are they going to do when every single physician employed in those facilities refuses to participate?”