Local, national groups join forces in hopes of passing Aid-in-Dying bill

Legislative Gazette photo by Maria Enea
Legislative Gazette photo by Maria Enea
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, center, a sponsor of the aid in dying legislation addresses reporters along with Senate sponsor Sen. Diane Savino, D-Shore Acres, right, and co-sponsor Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D- Manhattan, left, on new alliance, New York Alliance for Medical Aid, and their support in expanding end-of-life choices.

A group of local and national organizations pushing for an assisted suicide law in New York have created a larger coalition which they hope will further intensify their fight to expand end-of-life choices.

The New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying — comprised of four like-minded organizations — is hoping that more resources and advocates working together will help get medical aid in dying passed in New York.

“I look forward to working with my partners and I know today is just the warm-up for the outpouring of support that legislators will see at next week’s Assembly hearing,” said Corinne Carey, New York Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “Now is the time. Dying New Yorkers cannot wait any longer.”

The coalition is made up of Compassion & Choices New York; Death with Dignity-Albany; Death with Dignity National Center; and End of the Life Choices New York.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act (A. 2383-a/S.3151-a) would allow terminally ill patients to request medication to end their own lives. This legislation is sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, and Sen. Diane Savino, D-Shore Acres.

Savino said New Yorkers are suffering needlessly and want control over what is happening to them in their final moments.

“What they want is humanity, compassion and dignity in their final moments,” Savino said. “They want to share those moments with their family. They want to be able to decide how they exit this world because they know the disease that is ravaging their body is taking them anyway.”

They hope New York state will follow in the footsteps of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C. to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

The bill, among other things, would require patients to make an oral request and submit a signed and dated written request to their doctor in the presence of two adult witnesses, excluding the patient’s physicians or other mental health professional as witnesses.

Physicians would make a determination, or seek the advice of a mental health professional, if there is any question about whether the patient lacks the mental capacity to make an informed decision.

Additionally, physicians and other medical professionals would not be subject to civil or criminal liability for negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct by participating in the process of prescribing a life-ending drug, nor are they obligated to prescribe medication against their will.

“I’m so pleased that we have all joined together to work for this very very important bill. We know that … we are going to be stronger and bring all the voices that we can have and that we need to have, moving in the same direction,” Paulin said.

Last year the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, the New York State Public Health Association and the Latino Commission on AIDS supported the Act and most recently the League of Women Voters of New York State has as well.

David Leven, former executive director of End of Life Choices New York, said, “We have learned and one study confirms that people who access medical aid have at least as good if not better deaths than people who die by other means.”

According the bill’s justification, New Yorkers strongly support empowering terminally-ill, mentally competent patients to control their own death.

In 2015, an Eagle Point Strategies Survey discovered from respondents that 77 percent of all New Yorkers support aid in dying, including 75 percent of Catholics, 72 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of self-identified Conservatives and 78 percent of New Yorkers upstate.

In 2016 the Medical Aid in Dying Act, then (A.10059/S.7579), was passed by the Health Committee, but never made it to the floor.

However, this year the New York State Assembly Health Committee will be hold two hearings focusing on the Assembly bill, (A.2383-a) giving the public a chance to share their arguments for or against the legislation.

The first hearing will be held in Albany on April 23 with a second hearing held in New York City on May 3.