If he had had enough votes to pass it, Senate President Stephen Sweeney would surely have called it to the floor yesterday, December 18. According to disability rights activist John Kelly, “The next scheduled voting session of the Senate is January 13, and if Sweeney has the votes by then, it will surely be posted. Additional voting sessions will be held on February 2nd and 24th; March 5th and 16th.” We need to stay alert and be ready to respond at any time.
We can hope that our efforts and particularly the efforts of the disability rights community and numerous citizens of New Jersey raised doubts in the minds of some legislators who might have been inclined to follow their leadership or the emotional advertising of the Brittany Maynard case and vote for this. Thanks to all who called or emailed.
Senator Sweeney has said he is waging an “educational campaign” to get senators to vote for this. We need to counter it with our own educational campaign.
If you have not yet called or emailed, please please do so. We at True Dignity know the other side is also registering its opinion, because one of the staff people who answered a board member’s call interrupted her before she could speak more than two words, saying, “Death with Dignity?” We cannot let C&C seem to have greater numbers than we do.
As always, the arguments you make should be civil, reasoned, not religious, and not focused on palliative care.
Religious reasons are as valid as any, but the opponents call us religious fanatics who are trying to impose our views on others. Unfortunately, this tactic has been successful for them, especially in Washington state. In Vermont, after our bishop gave excellent testimony, one state senator said he didn’t want anybody else’s bishop present at his deathbed!
Palliative care arguments, equally valid, are also turned against us by the proponents. The same VT senator said after Dr. Ira Byock testified that he did not want him in charge of his end of life care; and the proponents say they agree with us that better palliative care is needed, but that assisted suicide should also be an option, not because it does not work but because some people are not willing to be dependent. We say that these people need society to tell them it wants to care for them and they need not feel that they are a burden. Offering assisted suicide sends exactly the opposite message. If you are going to talk about palliative care, please make that final point.
Focusing on the dangers of error and abuse and the impossibility of eliminating them by so-called “safeguards” is best.
If you have already called or emailed, give the senators a break for a while. We will let you know when to contact them again. Again, if you have not made contact, it is good to interrupt Senator Sweeney’s campaign by doing it now.