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Legislators & Advocates Kick Off Intensified 2020 Campaign to Pass NY’s Medical Aid in Dying Act

New I-787 billboard – notes support from 63% of New Yorkers & 56% of NY doctors – and moving new video of Buffalo wife & mother suffering from leukemia urge the legislature to pass medical aid in dying NOW

Compassion & Choices today unveiled two new advocacy resources to launch its intensified campaign on behalf of New Yorkers demanding that state lawmakers in Albany pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2020: a new billboard in Albany car drivers can see as they approach the Capitol on I-787, and a new, compelling video of Buffalo resident Debbie Stern, who has been suffering from leukemia for several years.

“Too many New Yorkers are suffering at the end of life. Terminally ill, mentally capable New Yorkers should have the same end-of-life care option – medical aid in dying – as their neighbors in New Jersey and Vermont, as well as seven other states and Washington, D.C.,” said Corinne Carey, New York Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “Every day that the Legislature fails to act is a day that allows fellow New Yorkers to needlessly suffer – against their wishes – at the end of their lives. 

“Beginning today and as 2020 unfolds, legislators are going to hear passionate and personal stories from some incredibly brave, dying New Yorkers as they join with tens of thousands of advocates across the state in demanding passage of the Medical Aid in Dying Act this year,” Carey said. “Dying New Yorkers don’t have the time to wait.”

As part of Compassion & Choices’ intensified 2020 campaign, for the next several months, motorists approaching the State Capitol via I-787 North will see this billboard:

“I think if the medical aid in dying law was in place in New York, it would give me a tremendous sense of empowerment and peace of mind and really relief,” said Debbie Stern, 69, a lifelong resident of Buffalo who has been suffering from leukemia for several years, in a new video released today by Compassion & Choices (available to view at bit.ly/DSternNY).  

Stern pointed to an interview she heard with Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor said: “I say pass the bill…the older we get and the better medicine gets, the more we’ve seen people suffer for too, too long.” After hearing those words from Cuomo, “I just felt such a tremendous sense of peace that I hadn’t had in a few years,” Stern said in the video.

Buffalo resident Debbie Stern.

Separate from the video, Stern made it clear: “I want very much to live as long as I can and to be there for my family and friends and to enjoy my life as long as I can.” However, Debbie knows that she won’t live forever. “I have had a great deal of fear about death and dying, but as my disease has progressed, I have really come to have less fear about dying itself. The fear now is more around suffering at the end.”

Here’s the bottom line for this brave wife, mother and step-mother of seven: “I want to be able to have a peaceful death, when the time is right, hopefully many years from now.”

New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.2694/S.3947) has more than 50 legislative sponsors, including the chairs of both the Assembly and Senate Health Committees, and is supported by: New York State Academy of Family Physicians, League of Women Voters of New York State, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York State Public Health Association, Statewide Senior Action Council, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Harlem United, Latino Commission on AIDS, Latinos for Healthcare Equity, among many others.

Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), prime Senate sponsor or the bill, said: “The right to peacefully end intolerable suffering at life’s inevitable end should not be determined by your city or your zip code. Terminally ill New Yorkers should have the same option of medical aid in dying to avoid needless suffering at the end of their lives as their neighbors across the George Washington Bridge or the Lake Champlain Bridge. I will be working with my colleagues to make this 2020 priority a reality. Too many New Yorkers are suffering at the end of life. This is New York and that’s unacceptable.” 

Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), prime Assembly sponsor of the bill, said: “I witnessed the horrible suffering of my sister at the end of her life. Nobody should be forced to suffer like that, and that’s why passing this bill is one of my highest priorities this year. Medical aid in dying is not the right end-of-life option for every dying New Yorker; however, we must make that option available to every terminally ill, mentally capable New Yorker. I look forward to partnering with my legislative colleagues and the governor to deliver on behalf of the two-thirds of New Yorkers who support medical aid in dying. Now is the time to pass it.”

The most recent Quinnipiac University Poll on medical aid in dying showed New York voters support it more than 2-1 margin (63-29 percent). Virtually every demographic group measured in the survey – party affiliation, region, ethnicity, religion, gender, education level, age – supported aid in dying. A survey of New York physicians conducted by the widely respected Medscape/WebMD released last year showed that 56 percent of doctors support medical aid in dying. Their support increased to 67 percent when informed about the details and safeguards included in the legislation.


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