North Country Advocates Join Compassion & Choices to Demand the State Legislature Pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023

November 17, 2022

“Aid-in-dying laws lead to increase in hospice care & improved end-of-life care”

“LAWMAKERS MUST STOP TURNING THEIR BACKS ON NYERS SUFFERING AT THE END OF LIFE”

Compassion & Choices Senior New York Campaign Director Corrine Carey urged legislators to stop turning their backs on New Yorkers suffering at the end of life, as she kicked off a two-month, statewide, grassroots campaign to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023 at a Lake Placid news conference today.

Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live to request a prescription from their doctor for medication they can take when their suffering becomes too great to bear and die peacefully. Ten states, including New York’s neighbors New Jersey and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C., authorize medical aid in dying. A recent Marist poll shows strong support for medical aid in dying among New York state voters, 59-36 percent, including majority support across the geographic, political and racial spectrum.

Carey said: “Over the last several years, too many New Yorkers – including dozens of advocates who became friends – have suffered at the end of their lives as legislators ignored their pleas to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Enough is enough. We are traveling to every corner of the state to make sure legislators know that their constituents are demanding action. Lawmakers must stop turning their backs on New Yorkers suffering at the end of life.”

Jay Federman MD, a retired Saranac Lake physician and medical director for the Tri-Lakes division of High Peaks Hospice, said: “Unfortunately, there are some dying patients for whom even the best hospice care does not meet their needs. Medical aid in dying is one component of end-of-life care, not an alternative to palliative or hospice care. In fact, medical aid-in-dying laws lead to an increase in hospice care and an improvement in end-of-life care for everyone.”

Last week, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a column from Raymond Stark of Tupper Lake. An 86-year-old veteran in hospice, Mr. Stark wrote, “Now I’m 86 and I’m dying. I strongly believe I should have the ability to decide what the end of my life looks like. It’s not for someone else to tell me I have to stay in this bed waiting around for the next heart attack. I want to go quickly and painlessly.”

If Mr. Stark lived in Vermont, he would be eligible for medical aid in dying. To highlight that point, Nancy Murphy of Vermontville told the story about her sister, who used aid-in-dying medication to die peacefully in Vermont.

Murphy said: “When my sister, Joan, was diagnosed with terminal, incurable ovarian cancer, having the option of medical aid in dying available provided her with great comfort for the remaining weeks of her life. When the day she decided to take the aid-in-dying medication came, she was surrounded by family, friends, and her minister. We toasted her with champagne. That loving, beautiful, peaceful, and chosen transition allowed us to bond with her, and she with us, in a way that is beyond description.”

Retired Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru), said: “I am a lifelong Catholic Republican who has always believed in bodily autonomy – including reproductive rights. I was proud to see my former colleagues move swiftly after the Dobbs decision to protect bodily autonomy for pregnant women. However, bodily autonomy should not be limited to reproductive rights. It should extend from adulthood to the end of life. And on that issue, my former colleagues have moved painfully slowly. I call upon them to do the right thing for their terminally ill constituents who desperately need this option: pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act early in the 2023 legislative session.”

In addition to the news conference, Compassion & Choices is leading a series of presentations and discussions across the North Country about medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for terminally ill adults. “Legalizing Medical Aid in Dying in New York: A Community Conversation” will be held in Saranac Lake, Canton, and Plattsburgh between today and Friday.

More information on medical aid in dying and the New York campaign can be found on Compassion & Choices’ websiteFacebook page and Twitter account.

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Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit organization committed to improving healthcare options at the end of life. Compassion & Choices New York is leading the campaign to give mentally capable, terminally ill New Yorkers the same legal option to request medical aid in dying that people currently have in 10 other states – including New York neighbors Vermont and New Jersey – as well as Washington, D.C. For more information, visit: CompassionAndChoices.org/NewYork.

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