Tuesday, January 07, 2014

NH Governor Afraid of End of Life Study Committee

Governor Hassan vetoed HB 403 in July. It was a bill to establish a committee to study end of life issues. It wasn't a bill for assisted suicide - it was a bill to set up a study committee. 

Governor Hassan's son has developmental disabilities. The DD community is worried about assisted suicide bills, and not without reason. People who have developmental disabilities often receive indifferent medical care - especially in hospitals. I understand her worries in that regard. 

My husband died a long, slow death of cancer, and one that he would have pulled the plug on a good six months before he died. That was before the cancer started turning his brain to mush, before the pain got so bad. He should have been able to choose his own death. 

Governor Hassan's fears shouldn't determine policy. Especially something as benign as a STUDY committee - where everyone's voices could be heard. This could have been a robust dialogue, where people from every part of the spectrum could be heard. Hassan, it seems, is too afraid to trust the process and let that conversation take place. 

And seriously, I don't give a shit how great our advanced directives are. They still force people to die on someone else's terms. 

It's hard to see this as anything but the most cowardly sort of censorship. I'm disappointed.

Here's her statement on the veto,  from the House Journal

By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 12, 2013, I vetoed House Bill 403, establishing a committee to study end of life decisions.

With any discussion of the complex and emotional issues related to en-of-life decisions, our focus must al- ways be first and foremost on helping all of those in our society to fully live their lives with the dignity that they deserve.

In New Hampshire, we have approached these issues very seriously and thoughtfully, always seeking to include the input of those who understand these issues best: doctors, patients, advocates for the elderly and those who experience chronic conditions or disabilities, and the people of New Hampshire.

This thoughtful process has already produced important laws, including New Hampshire’s advanced directive statute (RSA 137-J). In fact, I have just signed into law SB 170, which sought input from numerous stakeholders, ranging from medical community, patients, advocates for the elderly and people who experience disabilities, the religious community and many others, in order to clarify New Hampshire’s advance directive statute.

Therefore, I see no need for the study committee outlined by HB 403 and have vetoed the legislation.
Respectfully submitted, Margaret Wood Hassan Governor
Date: July 12, 2013 


Anonymous said...

This is yet ANOTHER attempt to deny death. We in the west but particularly here in America do all we can to deny that we are ALL going to die. All living things are born to die and this is a subject close to my heart. While in nursing I saw immense suffering and no way to end it. Hospice is as close as we can get to pulling the plug when it needs to be pulled.

Rather, in our sick society, we do all we can to increase and prolong suffering. Much of it due to our FOR PROFIT health care system which is not going to change with the ACA. Capitalism means negative altruism, negative humanity.

Like it or not, Americans choose this and we are stuck with it. There is no question in my mind, that Hassan has either pressure or she is part of the political club that has VESTED INTEREST in maintaining their own powerful greedy status quo. The last thing they want to do is to study something that will not be in their financial interests.

victoria said...

I was very interested to read this post. I know from recent experience that despite what Governor Hassan may be thinking, end of life care in New Hampshire really needs to be looked at.

My mom had totally inadequate care, as a combination of Alzheimer's and serious illness overcame her. The worst was the insensitive, greedy assisted living facility she lived in. We had to go to Superior Court to keep them from throwing her out, even though it turned out that she was dying (they assumed it was something much more benign).

Miraculously, my mom ended up in a hospice facility, where her dignity was honored and we had the chance to tell her how much we loved her, and to say goodbye.

But overall it was a chaotic process that was totally unnecessary.