Newsday: Opinion/Commentary: Time to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act

January 27, 2022

An excerpt from Newsday opinion column, “Time to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act,” by New York State Assemblymember Fred W. Thiele Jr., published January 27, 2022:

“Medical aid in dying. What do those words even mean? We’re all going to die. Why do we need medical aid to help us die?

Medical aid in dying is when a terminally ill, mentally sound person — someone with a disease or illness that is incurable and irreversible — with a prognosis from two doctors of six months or less to live, receives a prescription they can self-ingest at a time of their choosing, to fall asleep and have a peaceful death.

It’s an issue that affects very few dying New Yorkers. However, for many — like my friend Zach Cohen, who passed away in October after a battle with brain cancer — knowing that you do not have to suffer or be in pain in the final hours, days or even weeks of your life, provides great comfort…”

Zachary Cohen

Zachary Cohen

“Zach was fortunate that he didn’t suffer at the end. However, his final months were spent worrying about whether he would suffer at the end. And he also spent that time advocating to authorize medical aid in dying in New York.

Zach had a glioblastoma (the same cancer that took the lives of Sens. Edward Kennedy and John McCain) removed in July 2019, and early last year, he learned it had returned. Soon after the diagnosis, Zach invited me for a conversation at his home. Sadly, it was the last time I saw Zach. He was scared he was going to suffer terribly but was as determined as I’d ever seen him to both fight the disease and get me to fight even harder to authorize medical aid in dying in New York…”

“Medical aid in dying provides comfort to so many people, whether they would avail themselves of it or not. Maybe that’s why medical aid in dying has overwhelming support from New Yorkers and New York doctors.

I promised Zach I would do everything I can to help ensure that 2022 is the year New York finally passes the Medical Aid in Dying Act. There are too many dying New Yorkers who need this compassionate end-of-life care option. They need it now and I’m going to fight to see it done.”


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