Advocates Decry Legislature’s Failure – for the 10th Year in a Row – to Pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act

Six Months Until Legislature Returns is a Long Time for Dying New Yorkers Living on Borrowed Time
June 7, 2024

Campaign to Pass Medical Aid in Dying in 2025 Begins Today

NY Supporters holding a blue banner Corinne Carey, Compassion & Choices’ senior campaign director for New York/New Jersey, joined advocates at the State Capitol today to thank supporters and vowed to see lawmakers in their districts in the coming months. They also promised to be back at the Capitol in January, as they decried the Legislature’s failure to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act for the 10th consecutive year since the bill’s original introduction in 2015.

Terminally ill New Yorkers who had hoped to have medical aid in dying available to them in their final days expressed theri extreme disappointment in the Legislature’s failure to act. For some of them, waiting another six months for a new session in January is not an option.

Brian Moffett, a lifelong New Yorker and longtime Staten Islander, hoping to be the first person to use the law here, is dying of ALS, and wants to pass peacefully. Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton (D-Staten Island) and Assembly Member Amanda Septimo (D-Bronx) visited Moffett Monday at a Manhattan rehab facility.

Brian said, “I am terrified thinking about the suffering I know I will go through over the next weeks and months. I am deeply disappointed and beyond upset with those New York State leaders who refuse to pass this bill. I am eternally grateful to the brave leaders who are fighting so hard for the Medical Aid in Dying Act. I will keep speaking out until this broken body can no longer speak. Support medical aid in dying!”

“I am so disappointed and upset with those New York State leaders who refuse to pass this bill and eternally grateful to the brave leaders who are fighting so hard for this end-of-life care legislation. Terrified for the suffering I will go through over the next weeks and months, I will keep speaking out until this broken body no longer can speak. Support medical aid in dying!”            

Jules Netherland, from the Bronx, who was arrested for demonstrating and calling for passage of the Medical Aid in Dying Act from the Assembly Gallery last month, said: “As a New Yorker living with stage 4 breast cancer, I am beyond disappointed that for the 10th year in a row the Legislature failed to even debate the medical aid in dying bill. Because of this inaction, more terminally ill New Yorkers will die this year without the option of dying on their own terms without suffering. I certainly hope I live long enough to see the New York Legislature join 10 other states that have this compassionate option and the 72% of New Yorkers who support them.” 

Jeremy Boal, M.D., from Manhattan, is an internist and geriatrician who served as Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer of the Mount Sinai Health System. He stepped down in 2023, when he was diagnosed with ALS. Earlier in his career, he co-founded the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors program, which provides in-home care to homebound patients. His remarks reflect only his personal opinion.

Dr. Boal said: “I’m grateful to the many advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to try and get this bill across the line. But I am heartbroken that terminally ill New Yorkers, like me, will still not have the comfort of knowing that medical aid in dying is available to them if their suffering is unbearable. With the vast majority of New Yorkers of all backgrounds in favor of this legislation, the support of so many organizations, and medical aid in dying being authorized in 11 jurisdictions, including nearby New Jersey, Maine, and Vermont, what more will it take for New York to allow this compassionate option for its own people?”

Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live to request a prescription from their doctor for medication they can take to die peacefully when their suffering becomes too great to bear. Ten states, including New Jersey, Vermont and Maine, as well as Washington, D.C., have authorized medical aid in dying.

A recent YouGov poll showed New Yorkers overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying, 72-23%, including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents, as well as Black, white, Latino, and Asian voters, and voters from every region of the state. 

Carey noted that some advocates showed up at the Capitol every week, and every day this week.

Barb Thomas from the League of Women Voters of New York State, one of those indefatigable advocates, said: “I am incredibly disappointed that the Medical Aid in Dying bill is not passing this session. I have been coming to the Capitol on Tuesdays all session long and every day this week in support of this bill and in honor of my husband Bob who would have liked to use this option if it had been available when he was dying. He had an always fatal brain cancer and he really wanted me to shoot him to put him out of his misery. Now I am 87 years old I don’t know how much longer I can continue to come to Albany to advocate for this bill but I surely do hope that if I have a fatal disease I would have this option available to me.”

Thad Mirer, director of Death with Dignity-Albany, who spent countless hours talking with lawmakers in the hallways at the Capitol, said: “Medical aid in dying is simply about offering an option to someone who is dying, where the alternatives are not sufficient to relieve suffering. The bill would allow those with strong moral objections to the law to refrain from participating, but their objections should not stop others from having the option. This bill would ease the suffering and give peace of mind to so many, and I am hopeful that lawmakers will pass the bill when they return in 2025.”

Carey said: “Ten long years of educating legislators and building momentum, gathering sponsors and supporters. Ten very long years of watching terminally ill advocates succumb – often suffering in those final days – without having the option for a peaceful death. We’ll be back at the Capitol in January when the legislature returns to demand a vote, but six months is a long time for dying New Yorkers living on borrowed time.

“My heart breaks for Brian, Jules, Jeremy and so many others. My heart is already broken for the dozens of advocates – many who became friends – who have died during the course of this 10-year campaign. It is hard to explain to people who aren’t immersed in Albany politics how and why the Legislature completely and utterly failed them.

“We know that if the leaders had allowed a vote in either house, it would have passed with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. The only way for legislative leaders – and the public – to see that is by bringing the bill to the floor for a vote. 

“I also know that we will not rest until – not if – lawmakers pass this bill. Our advocates will not let up in their activism, heroism, and perseverance until medical aid in dying is the law of the land in New York. The campaign for 2025 begins today,” Carey said.

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