Bolstered by governor’s support, aid-in-dying supporters plan Albany rally

Legislative Gazette file photo
Sen. Diane Savino speaks about her bill that would allow terminally ill New Yorkers to end their own lives with a prescription from their doctor. Groups supporting the legislation are planning a lobbying event in Albany on May 14.

With less than two months left in the legislative session, organizations that support medical aid-in-dying will be making a push for legislation that allows terminally ill patients to end their own lives under the supervision of a doctor.

The spring 2019 advocacy day for the Medical Aid in Dying Act will be held on May 14 in Albany. Compassion and Choices New York will be organizing the event with other groups that hope to convince legislators to expand New Yorkers’ end-of-life options by legalizing this last-resort procedure.

If the legislation passes, it would give New Yorkers the right to request a prescription for medication to end their life if their pain and suffering becomes unbearable. This option would only be available to adults who have less than 6 months to live, and they must be found mentally capable of making that decision by two different doctors.

New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.3947/A.2694) is sponsored by Senator Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, and would amend the Public Health Law to include this end-of-life option.

There has been significant controversy surrounding the discussion of giving patients the right to choose death. Supporters think of it as a humane way to end one’s suffering. But many who are against it say it conflicts with a doctor’s oath to heal. Disability rights groups and religious conservatives say it would normalize suicide and put pressure on the disabled, and other marginalized groups, to end their own lives.

While the bill is receiving mixed reactions, Governor Andrew Cuomo has spoke in favor of passing it for the first time.

“I say pass the bill,” Cuomo said during an interview on WAMC Northeast Public Radio with Dr. Alan Chartock, publisher of The Legislative Gazette. “The older we get and the better medicine gets, the more we’ve seen people suffer for too, too long … it’s a situation we have to address, definitely.”

Legislative Gazette file photo

So far, nine jurisdictions have authorized medical aid in dying. This includes California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, Hawaii, Washington D.C., and most recently, New Jersey.

“This is the first time Governor Cuomo has publicly spoken on this issue, so his statement of support should turbocharge lawmakers’ efforts to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation,” said Corrine Carey, the campaign director for Compassion and Choices in New Jersey and New York, after hearing about Cuomo’s statement. “There’s no reason New Yorkers should not have the same option to peacefully end needless suffering this year that New Jerseyans will have in just a few months.”