A terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live has the option to request and take prescription medication that they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep, if their suffering becomes unbearable. Read more about medical aid in dying.
About the Bill
The bill is modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has been in effect for 20 years without a single legally documented instance of abuse or coercion. It includes more than a dozen safeguards:
- The patient must be able to take the medication themselves.
- Only people with an incurable and irreversible terminal illness and six-month prognosis confirmed by two doctors are eligible for medical aid in dying. People are not eligible to use the law simply because of their age or disability.
- The attending physician must inform the requesting person about all of their end-of-life care options, including hospice, comfort palliative care, and pain and symptom management.
- If either doctor has concerns about the person’s mental capacity to make healthcare decisions, they must make a referral the person to a mental health professional for an assessment. Medication can’t be prescribed for the person until the doctors or mental health professional confirm the person’s mental capacity is determined to make their own healthcare decisions.
- The person must make two separate requests for the medication, one oral request and one written request. Two people must witness the written request.
- Anyone attempting to coerce a person into using medical aid in dying is subject to liable for criminal prosecution.
- A terminally ill person can withdraw their request for medication, not take the medication once they have it or otherwise change their mind at any point in time.
- Life insurance payments can’t be denied to the families of people who use the law just because they used the law.
- No physician, health provider or pharmacist is required to participate.
- Healthcare providers have civil and criminal immunity for participating in the law, as long as they comply with all aspects of the law.
- Unused medication must be disposed of in a safe and secure manner, according to the guidelines specified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and New York State Department of Health.
- Prescribing doctors must comply with patient medical-record documentation requirements and make records available to the state department of health.
- The state department of health is required to issue a publicly available annual report. Identifying information about individual people who use the law and doctors who participate in it is kept confidential.
- The underlying illness — not medical aid in dying — will be listed as the cause of death on the death certificate because it this information helps prioritize disease research.
For More Information
Compassion & Choices launched a robust campaign to authorize medical aid in dying in New York in September 2015. Key highlights include:
- Lawmakers first introduced the Medical Aid in Dying Act on May 10, 2016, with nearly 100 C&C supporters visiting the Capitol in support.
- On May 23, 2016, the Assembly Health Committee passed the bill. Read our testimony.
- C&C has collected over 10,000 petition signatures at state, county, and local fairs, festivals, and events.
- Our supporters have met with lawmakers in Albany on our lobby days and in their district offices.
- We’ve built a coalition of supportive organizations representing doctors, seniors and healthcare advocates; and we have helped dozens of New Yorkers tell their stories in the media and in hearings held by the New York State Assembly during the Spring of 2018.