Compassion & Choices New York Applauds New York State Academy of Family Physicians for Voting to Support Medical Aid in Dying Act

Resolution Calls for Expanding Options for End-of-Life Care to Include Medical Aid in Dying
July 10, 2017

Compassion & Choices New York campaign director Corinne Carey today applauded the New York State Academy of Family Physicians and its Congress of Delegates for voting overwhelmingly to support the New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (S3151/A2383), sponsored by Senator Diane Savino (IDC-Staten Island) and Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester). Prior to this vote, the NYSAFP had a neutral stance on medical aid in dying.

“This exciting news demonstrates that the medical community is moving consistently and decisively to support medical aid in dying as a legitimate end-of-life-option for all terminally ill, mentally capable New Yorkers, and an appropriate option for a small number of individuals and their families,” Carey said. “The six-thousand-member NYS Academy of Family Physicians brings its expertise, high standing among medical professionals and enlightened leadership to the effort to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for New York. We thank the Academy and welcome their efforts on behalf of New Yorkers who overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying.”

Dr. Sarah Nosal, President of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, said: “Family Physicians are unique in that we are blessed to care for patients and their families throughout the lifespan, quite literally from cradle to grave.  Supporting the authorization of medical aid in dying is commensurate with the Family Physician’s desire to empower our patients not only in their pursuit of wellness, their management of chronic disease, but also the alleviation of suffering when faced with a terminal illness.”

 Among the reasons to support medical aid in dying cited in NYSAFP’s resolution are:

  • The NYSAFP currently maintains a “neutral” position on state or federal legislation regarding aid in dying by means of a patient-directed, patient-administered prescription medication.
  • A position of “neutrality” can have negative consequences for patients and can be viewed as patient abandonment.
  • The Medical Aid in Dying Act would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult to ask for a prescription for medication that they can take to bring about a peaceful death at a time of their choosing – or never – should suffering become unbearable at the end of life, and likewise provide criminal and civil immunity for physicians who provide such prescriptions if they comply with the requirements of the law.
  • September 2015 poll of New York residents showed 73.5% in agreement with the statement, “If I am terminally ill, the decision about whether or not I use medication to speed my death should be up to me and my family, under a doctor’s care.”
  • In Oregon, end-of-life care improved after implementation of its Death with Dignity law.
  • Rates of assisted dying in Oregon showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured, the poor, the disabled or other vulnerable groups.
  • The mission of the NYSAFP is to “improve the health of patients, families and communities by serving members of the Academy through education and advocacy.”
  • NYSAFP supports “physicians’ right to refuse to participate in any action against his or her personal code of ethics is essential.”

The New York State Academy of Family Physicians represents more than 6,000 Family Physicians and medical students throughout the state.  The Academy provides education and advocacy for member physicians and is a recognized leader in physician education and health care policy in New York.

In December 2016, Medscape, a leading medical website offering the latest medical news and expert perspective for physicians and healthcare professionals, issued its “Medscape Ethics Report 2016: Life, Death, and Pain,” which found that “a growing number of US physicians now endorse the idea of physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients.”  Currently, physicians support medical aid in dying by a 57-29 percent margin, up dramatically from 46-41 percent in 2010.

“We look forward to working with the NYSAFP to help continue to educate New Yorkers about end-of-life options and to mobilize the overwhelming support of New Yorkers for medical aid in dying to convince the Governor and Legislature is year New York should join six other state and the District of Columbia in making medical aid in dying for those New Yorkers who seek this option,” Carey said. “In addition to NYSAFP, I also want to offer heartfelt thanks to the physicians who helped make this resolution a reality through their efforts and advocacy.”

More information about Compassion & Choices NY’s efforts to pass medical aid in dying is available here.  New Yorkers can voice their support for medical aid in dying with state legislators here.

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