Legislators, Advocates and Compassion & Choices Kick Off the Campaign to Pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2018

January 10, 2018

Corinne Carey, Compassion & Choices NY Campaign Director, addresses the crowd at 2018 campaign kickoff at the New York State Capitol.

Compassion & Choices kicked off the campaign to pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.3151/A.2383) in 2018 with a Capitol news conference today. The lead sponsors of the bill – Senator Diane Savino (IDC-Staten Island) and Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) – along with Assembly Health Committee Chairman Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and other sponsors of the legislation pointed to greater understanding of and growing support for medical aid in dying within the Legislature.

Senator Diane Savino (IDC-Staten Island), prime sponsor or the bill, said: “Medical aid in dying continues to gain traction at the Capitol, and we are moving closer to the day when New York authorizes medical aid in dying. The fight won’t be won because of press releases sent out by people who haven’t even taken the time to read the bill and learn the facts. We will get this law passed because it’s the right thing to do. I am the first to say that medical aid in dying is not for everyone. I don’t know what my decision would be if I were in that situation. But I do know I would want the option for me, my loved ones and all New Yorkers who want that option.”

Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), prime sponsor of the bill, said: “As support for medical aid in dying continues to grow and as the experiences in other states continue to show how well the laws work, I am ever more optimistic that New York will soon join those other six states by passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act. The time has come to make this compassionate end-of-life option available to all New Yorkers who want the option.”

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, a co-sponsor of the bill, said: “Support for medical aid in dying is growing in the health community. I look forward to seeing the results of the survey of New York doctors being conducted by the Medical Society of the State of New York. And I am optimistic that we will move the Medical Aid in Dying Act through the Assembly Health Committee and on towards Assembly passage this year.”

“Across the country, a growing number of those who are terminally ill have gained the right to ask for medical aid in dying to forestall needless suffering at the end of their lives. Not here in New York. At least, not yet. But we know that if it were up to voters, 2018 would be the year. Voters want New York to join Washington DC and six other states, including our neighbor Vermont, in allowing an end-of-life option that few will ever use, but will provide countless others with peace of mind,” said Corinne Carey, Compassion & Choices NY campaign director. “The bill enjoys overwhelming public support among New York voters. The time is right. It’s time to pass this law. This session.” 

New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act:

  •  Optional for patients; optional for doctors.
  •  Only for mentally-capable, terminally-ill adults with six months or less to live.
  •  Must be self-ingested.
  •  Strongly supported by the public, according to Gallup and LifeWay Research (LifeWay Christian Resources), and doctors.
  • More than a dozen studies conclude that medical aid in dying benefits many terminally ill adults, whether they use the option or not, because it spurs conversations about all end-of-life care options, and reduces suffering by inspiring more frequent usage of hospice, palliative care and pain management.
  • The Disability Rights Legal Center has declared that medical aid in dying “poses no threat to people with disabilities.”
  • Safely practiced in:
    • Oregon (for more than two decades)
    • Washington
    • Montana
    •  Vermont
    • California
    • Colorado
    • Washington, DC

Compassion & Choices NY Campaign Organizer, Amanda Cavanaugh with medical aid in dying advocates, supporters and storytellers at 2018 Campaign Kickoff at the New York State Capitol.

Barbara Thomas, Saratoga Springs, told the heart wrenching story about her husband, Bob, who died six years ago next week, after a painful bout of brain cancer. She said:

“By April of 2011, Bob was ready to die. To be clear, Bob was not suicidal. He wanted to live; but his cancer chose to end his life. All he was asking for was assistance in ending his suffering when he couldn’t take it anymore. He asked me to get his pistol so he could shoot himself.  I didn’t, couldn’t, do it.

“I still feel guilty that I didn’t help him escape his misery. At the end, we would lay in his bed and cry together.

“When Bob died, I vowed to myself I didn’t want anyone else I love to suffer like that. And I don’t want to suffer that way either. I’m here today to tell lawmakers that now is the time. Pass medical aid in dying in 2018,” Thomas said.

Ida Schmertz, New York City, told about her ongoing fight against lymphoma, which she has been battling for 24 years. She said:

“In 1994, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. That turned into Evans Syndrome, a rare disorder, where every major component of my blood system is under attack by my own immune system. Over the past 20-plus years, I have taken every medication know for these diseases, including numerous rounds of chemotherapy.

“The last drug trial I participated in has been a remarkable success. I can now say the disease is in remission. I plan to continue an active life as long as I possibly can. But when Evans Syndrome reappears, the Medical aid in dying Act would give me incalculable peace of mind. Of course, I support strong palliative and hospice care, but I also believe medical aid in dying should be an option for every person,” Schmertz said.

Assemblyman Luis Sepuveda (D-Bronx) said: “As more states join in with greater understanding of and growing support for medical aid in dying by creating official legislation, I believe it is also time for a forward-thinking state such as ours to also create sensible legislation on this emotional issue. Anyone who has dealt with a loved one going through often painful end-of-life illness would be the first to step up to support this legislation.”

Medical Aid in Dying is supported by:

  • Death with Dignity Albany
  • End of Life Choices NY
  • Harlem United
  • Housing Works
  • Mobilizing Preachers and Communities
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • New York Society for Ethical Culture
  • New York State Academy of Family Physicians
  • New York State Public Health Association
  • Rochester Breast Cancer Coalition
  • Secular Coalition of America – New York Chapter
  • Statewide Senior Action Council
  • Voters for Change-ADK

“We know there is still more work to be done but we also know that the concerns raised by opponents have been answered by evidence and data, and by the real-life experiences of thousands of New Yorkers who have experienced a loved one’s painful passing. We will continue to talk with lawmakers to answer their questions about medical aid in dying and our supporters from across the state will continue to tell their stories. They have vowed to work so that no one’s loved one suffers needlessly at the end of life,” Carey said. “Passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act – a bill that allows all individuals to make end-of-life choices that are consistent with their faith, their values and their beliefs – in 2018 is the right thing to do. It’s the right policy and it’s the right politics.”

Compassion & Choices
Media Contacts

Sean Crowley
Media Relations Director
[email protected]

Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
[email protected]
(323) 819 0310

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.