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Display Exhibition and Press Conference Urge New York Legislators to “Pass Medical Aid in Dying NOW”

The multiday event marked the opening of Compassion & Choices’ intensified 2020 campaign to authorize medical aid in dying in the Empire State. 

Compassion & Choices national staff and New York-based volunteers spent three days at New York’s Legislative Office Building and Capitol, January 21-23, exhibiting an inspiring and moving educational display on medical aid in dying for legislators and visitors. 

The display featured profiles of local and national leaders in the end-of-life care movement. Included are Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and other faith leaders; nationally recognizable advocates; and the stories of New Yorkers — those who are terminally ill and seeking medical aid in dying and those who died while urging the Legislature to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act since its introduction in 2015. A copy of all the materials featured on the educational display can be seen here.

On the final day of the display exhibition, dozens of supporters and advocates held a press conference at the New York State Capitol urging legislators to “pass medical aid in dying NOW.”

“The time has come for the Legislature to send Governor Andrew Cuomo the bill he requested,” said Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan, referencing public statements of support for medical aid in dying made last year by the governor. “Terminally ill New Yorkers should have the same peace of mind as their neighbors in Vermont and New Jersey.”

At the press conference, Compassion & Choices revealed the first of “50 reasons to pass the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act” from award-winning filmmaker Barbara Hammer’s widow, Florrie Burke. Hammer battled for 12 years with ovarian cancer and spent her final weeks advocating for medical aid in dying in New York. 

“It was traumatic for me to helplessly watch the love of my life die in prolonged distress because there was nothing I could do to relieve her suffering, despite the best hospice care available. In her final months, Barbara asked the Legislature to pass medical aid in dying. “They didn’t, and Barbara suffered at the end,” Burke said.

Barbara Hammer is featured in a new video that also includes the stories of four more terminally ill New Yorkers who died advocating for this compassionate legislation since it was first introduced in 2015: Miguel Carrasquillo, Youssef Cohen, Jay Kallio and Bernadette Hoppe. You can watch that video and read the words of those deceased advocates here.

Another of the “50 reasons” will be sent directly to legislators on each of the remaining days of New York’s 2020 legislative session, or until New York becomes the 11th jurisdiction to authorize medical aid in dying. Each of these stories will also be featured on Compassion & Choices New York’s Facebook page and at CompassionAndChoices.org/NewYork.


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