Monday, February 12, 2024

Anita Cameron’s Powerful Statement At Maryland Press Conference

 By Diane Coleman

On February 8, the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee held a public hearing on a proposed assisted suicide bill (SB0443). That morning prior to the hearing, the Patients Rights Action Fund organized a press conference of opponents. Anita Cameron represented Not Dead Yet and made the following compelling arguments against the bill:

I'm Anita Cameron, Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet, a national disability organization opposed to medical discrimination, healthcare rationing, euthanasia and assisted suicide.

SB 0443 will put sick people, seniors and disabled people, especially, at risk due to the view of doctors that disabled people have a lower quality of life, therefore leading them to devalue our lives.

In 2021, Lisa Iezzoni, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, conducted a survey of 714 doctors around the country as part of a study. She found "82.4 percent reported that people with significant disability have worse quality of life than nondisabled people. Only 40.7 percent of physicians were very confident about their ability to provide the same quality of care to patients with disability, just 56.5 percent strongly agreed that they welcomed patients with disability into their practices, and 18.1 percent strongly agreed that the health care system often treats these patients unfairly."

Now add race and racial disparities in healthcare to this. Blacks, in particular, receive inferior health care compared to whites in the areas of cardiac care, diabetes, cancer and pain management. Doctors are more likely to write us off as terminal, making us eligible for assisted suicide.

COVID, in particular, has laid bare racial disparities and disability discrimination in healthcare that leads to medical rationing and futility decisions that can end a person's life. Michael Hickson's case is a clear case of discrimination against disabled people.

Michael Hickson was a 46-year-old Black man from Texas, the father of 5 children. Mr. Hickson was a quadriplegic, the result of a brain injury caused by a heart attack. He was placed in a nursing home, where he contracted COVID. He was sent to St. David Hospital, in Austin, Texas. However, due to his disability, the doctors decided not to treat him, stating that he had no quality of life, though family videos show him laughing and singing with his wife and children. He was placed in hospice and allowed to die.

I, too, have personal experience with racial discrimination and disparities in healthcare. The most blatant example of this was when I went to the emergency department last year in intractable pain. A white woman, also in pain, was next to me in the hallway because it was very busy that day. We had the same ER doctor caring for us. She, without asking, got Dilaudid, a potent pain medication, while I got a pat on the shoulder and sent home.

As long as disability discrimination and racial disparities in healthcare exist and as long our broken, profit-driven healthcare system limits people's access to treatment, services and supports, assisted suicide laws like SB 0443 have no place in Maryland.


The House committees will hear the bill on February 16. I testified last week and must say that Maryland has unusually complex steps and deadlines for allowing witnesses to testify (oral or written). The process is detailed by each committee, such as in these Health and Government Operations Committee Guidelines. They are hearing the bill Friday and the deadline to sign up is Wednesday.