Testimony of Meghan Schrader
Before the New Jersey State Senate
Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee
In Opposition to S 382/ A 2270
Brittany Maynard could have been my classmate. Like her, I am a member of the millennial generation, born two years before her in 1982. Since Maynard’s story appeared in the public arena, bioethicist Arthur Caplan and Star-Ledger editor Tom Moran have predicted that she will inspire “the Millenial Generation” to ensure legalization of assisted suicide.
Caplan and Moran’s speculation about millennials is undercut by the report of the prominent Pew Research Center, which shows young people to be almost as opposed to assisted suicide as people over 64, with 54% opposing and 45% in support.
And as a disability rights advocate who has lived and studied the experience of systemic ableism, I am firmly and unequivocally against this practice. I am very disturbed by what I see as the looksist, ableist, racist and classist ways in which Brittany’s image has been promoted as the new face of assisted suicide.
Maynard’s appeal lies largely in her whiteness, the vulnerability associated with her gender, and the impression of able-bodiedness conferred by her wedding photos. What’s more, the concept of autonomy she represented is based on the circumstances of those who share that privileged status.
For instance, Brittany Maynard’s privileged conception of autonomy was reflected in her editorial demanding that (palliative care physician) Ira Byock not discuss “her.” This strange request for privacy was belied by Maynard’s own call for society to effect social policy based on “her story.” Maynard’s decision was not between her and her doctor, but between her and the rest of the country. The public has a right to consider such legislation in the context of how other people might experience a similar condition. Less privileged people must have equal claim to the state’s consideration.