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New York Campaign Update January 2020

What's happening in New York.

This month we kicked off our intensified 2020 campaign with one clear and powerful message: Pass the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act NOW!

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 educational display on medical aid in dying for legislators and visitors.

A visitor to the New York Legislative Office Building in Albany reads the story of Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz, as featured in Compassion & Choices' educational display. Brittany and Dan moved from California to Oregon in 2014 so she could utilize its medical aid-in-dying law to peacefully end her suffering from terminal brain cancer because California did not yet have a similar law. Dan Diaz was among the advocates who spoke at a January 23 press event at the New York State Capitol urging New York lawmakers to authorize medical aid in dying without delay.

A visitor to the New York Legislative Office Building in Albany reads the story of Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz, as featured in Compassion & Choices’ educational display.

The display featured profiles of local and national leaders in the end-of-life care movement, including Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and other faith leaders; nationally recognizable advocates, and most importantly, 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.

Among the nationally recognized advocates featured in the display are Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz. Brittany and Dan moved from California to Oregon in 2014 so that Brittany could utilize its medical aid-in-dying law to peacefully end her suffering from terminal brain cancer because California did not yet have a similar law. Dan Diaz was among dozens of advocates and supporters who rallied at a Capitol press conference on the final day of the display exhibition urging legislators to pass the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act during the 2020 session.

“I made a promise to Brittany just before she died that I would carry on her legacy by advocating for medical aid-in-dying laws nationwide, so no terminally ill person has to suffer needlessly at life’s inevitable end,” said Diaz. “When I personally explain to New York lawmakers and residents how this option enabled Brittany to peacefully avoid the brutal symptoms brain cancer was inflicting on her and die gently in her sleep, it opens their eyes and hearts to the need for this compassionate law.”

He also explained why using the word “suicide” in reference to medical aid in dying is erroneous. Individuals struggling with suicide are making a decision on whether to live or die, while those seeking medical aid in dying know they will die and are deciding whether and how much they may suffer while dying. 

You can watch a video of the press conference on the Compassion & Choices New York Facebook page, linked here.

“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.”

Florrie Burke speaks at Compassion & Choices' January 23 press conference at the New York State Capitol. Burke's wife, award-winning filmmaker Barbara Hammer, died from ovarian cancer last year, after 12 years of bravely enduring painful treatments, including 100 chemotherapy sessions, multiple surgeries, radiation, immunotherapy and the painful effects of this disease.

Florrie Burke speaks at Compassion & Choices’ January 23 press conference at the New York State Capitol. Burke’s wife, award-winning filmmaker Barbara Hammer, died from ovarian cancer last year, after 12 years of bravely enduring painful treatments, including 100 chemotherapy sessions, multiple surgeries, radiation, immunotherapy and the painful effects of this disease.

At the press conference, Compassion & Choices unveiled 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.

Our intensified campaign also includes a billboard placed right off the New York State Thruway near the state capitol complex in Albany, pictured below.


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