Thursday, June 27, 2024

Anita Cameron: "Black People, Wake Up and Remember Our History"

As we in the Black community celebrate freedom, liberation, and life on Juneteenth, there is a movement afoot that will endanger the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.

This dangerous movement is the push for legalization of assisted suicide, sometimes called medical assisted suicide, across the United States.

Assisted suicide is when someone, usually terminally ill, with six months or less to live, makes a request for a lethal dose of medication prescribed by a physician or medical provider.  After the waiting period, if there is one, the provider issues the prescription, the person or someone designated by them picks it up, and the medication is ingested by the person to whom it is prescribed. There is no doctor or witness required to be present .... Currently, assisted suicide is legal in ten US states and the District of Columbia. As of this year, 2024, 20 states have either introduced assisted suicide legislation or have expanded bills that have already passed.

As access to healthcare, services and supports are being stripped from disabled people around the country, we cannot continue to push forward with assisted suicide laws. Cuts to funding for home care services, as well as reduction or elimination of eligibility to those services, combined with racial and disability disparities and discrimination in healthcare, will lead to those being deemed to be terminal to feel that they have no choice but to ask for assisted suicide. Lack of access to home care givers due to workforce shortages, with workers unable to work enough hours and earn a livable wage, will further compound this.

As a disabled Black person, I am alarmed at the negative impact that the normalization of assisted suicide will have on Black disabled, in particular, because contrary to what assisted suicide proponents say, assisted suicide is all about disability. After all, people who are terminally ill are part of the disability community and are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Oregon data (Oregon was the first state to enact an assisted suicide law), the top five reasons people request assisted suicide are: loss of autonomy, decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities, loss of dignity, feelings of being an emotional or financial burden on family and loved ones, and loss of control of bodily functions, such as incontinence and vomiting. These are all disability related reasons that can be addressed with services and supports, not assisted suicide.

We Blacks are overwhelmingly against assisted suicide, but there’s an organization called Compassion and Choices that’s going into Black communities trying to convince us that assisted suicide is a good thing and that it’s a right. That’s how they bamboozle us by couching it in those terms, because we know what it feels like not to have basic human and civil rights.

Compassion and Choices, once known as The Hemlock Society, is an organization formed and led by middle and upper middle class whites. This demographic of white people overwhelmingly support assisted suicide. Compassion and Choices hires middle class Black staff to come into our communities to spread the lie about assisted suicide because they know that we’re more likely to listen if information comes from someone who looks like us. As a result, some middle class and wealthy Blacks are falling for this farce. As assisted suicide becomes normalized, racial disparities in healthcare will mean that Black patients will be more likely to be written off as terminal and steered towards ending our lives. Being disabled compounds this. Disabled people also experience health disparities because doctors quite literally devalue our lives, don’t want us as patients and don’t believe that we are treated unfairly. Add being Black to that, and the risks of being written off as terminal in a state where assisted suicide is legal, rises exponentially.

In the face of rampant healthcare inequities, it’s no surprise that assisted suicide is rarely used by the Black community. We fight to live. We fight to get access to treatment. We fight for end of life treatment. We fight for medical care that most white folks take for granted.

Black people, wake up and remember our history! Realize and understand what white supremacy is and how it works! Listen to our elders. Listen to Black disabled folks whose lives are devalued every day. Listen to poor Black folks on the street who can tell of the injustices they suffer in emergency rooms across the nation because they’re poor and homeless. Compassion and Choices does not have the best interests of the Black community in mind. They do not care about us; they are merely promoting an agenda. They know full well about the racial disparities in healthcare, but are hoping that either we don’t know or that we have forgotten. They want us to believe that since we Blacks are less likely to receive adequate end of life care that assisted suicide is the answer. It is not! It is not our culture. Black culture is about the celebration and the uplifting of life. Our culture is of freedom, justice, joy and liberation.

Assisted suicide puts us Black folks, particularly if we have disabilities, are sick, are elders, or poor, at grave risk. It is discrimination of the highest order and we must fight back and fight hard against this malevolent form of white supremacy. 


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