Paulin & Hoylman-Sigal Lead Mother’s Day Commemoration for State Legislators, Urging their Colleagues to Help Pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act By June End of Session

May 11, 2023

Assembly Health Committee Chairwoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) hosted a Mother’s Day Commemoration for state legislators today, urging their colleagues to help pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act – which has a combined 79 sponsors in the two houses – before the 2023 legislative session ends next month.

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 neighbors New Jersey and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C., authorize medical aid in dying. The most recent Marist poll shows strong support for medical aid in dying among New York voters, 59-36%, including majority support across the geographic, political and racial spectrum.

Paulin said: “To hear these stories – from mothers who watched their children suffer as they died, or adult children who were helpless to ease their mother’s suffering as death approached – is heartbreaking. Today is the anniversary of my sister’s death from ovarian cancer. She suffered and was in so much pain at the end of her life. She had no quality of life and only wished that her suffering would end. What happened during her last few weeks of life motivates me to ensure that the Medical Aid in Dying Act becomes a reality for New Yorkers.”

Hoylman-Sigal said: “We can’t stop death from stage 4 terminal cancer or ALS or other insidious illnesses and diseases. That’s not within our legislative powers. But we can offer peace of mind and a compassionate option to those who are suffering greatly, or whose pain cannot be controlled despite the best hospice and palliative care efforts. We can pass our law to make New York the 11th state to authorize medical aid in dying. That’s why I am proud to sponsor the bill with Assemblymember Paulin, and I thank Compassion & Choices, Death with Dignity, and the family advocates of the bill for their support.”

The presenters at this morning’s commemoration included:

Amy Eilert – mother of Ayla Rain Eilert; a Manhattan ballet dancer who died in agony from metastatic tongue cancer one year ago this month. Amy said, “Despite receiving the best treatment and palliative care available, in the last few weeks of her life, Ayla suffered so much and begged for the one end-of-life care option she couldn’t have as a New Yorker: medical aid in dying. No parent should have to helplessly watch their child suffer while begging for relief.”

Ethan Milich, Buffalo, whose mom Jennifer Milich , died in agony from metastatic kidney cancer last year because she didn’t have the option of medical aid in dying she championed. Ethan said, “In hospice, my mom suffered greatly. She suffered so much in the final days. My mom was never afraid of death. She had a fear of suffering. And her fears were sadly well founded. I beg New York legislators to pass this bill.”

Lisa Townsend, the mother of Tarlie Townsend, an NYU post-doctoral fellow who died in 2022 of a rare form of melanoma, and suffered at the end of her life. Lisa said, “Helplessly watching my daughter suffer is the hardest thing I’ve ever done or will do. I wanted to prevent her from suffering. In the end, New York’s laws required Tarlie to suffer.”

Shannon Wong, whose mother, Camille Parker, died of bone cancer and her only wish was that she not suffer. Shannon said, “Mom was clear that she didn’t want to suffer. Close to the end, all you want is peace. But Mom’s passing was not peaceful. I urge every legislator to support medical aid in dying to give people a comprehensive choice.”

Myra Shulman, Ithaca, talked about how her 89-year-old mother Beverly was able to die peacefully, surrounded by her daughters, in California, with medical aid in dying. Myra said, “After the diagnosis, mom had surgery to remove the tumor in her colon, which gave her quality time that she used traveling and visiting friends and family. Inevitably, the cancer returned, the tumors grew and Mom was often in pain and fatigued, despite hospice and palliative care. Mom had a wonderful medical team and when she received the prescription she requested for aid in dying medication, she didn’t take it for two weeks. When the time came, she lay on her own bed, in her own home, with her daughters at her side. It was such a peaceful, gentle, truly beautiful way to end a life.”

Corinne Carey, senior New York campaign director of Compassion & Choices, said: “Over the last eight years, while we’ve been working to get this bill passed, 23 advocates died while advocating for the compassionate option of medical aid in dying. Enough is enough. It’s beyond time for legislators to stop their constituents’ suffering. It’s time to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act and to provide peace, comfort and relief to thousands of New Yorkers.”

The Medical Aid in Dying Act is supported by numerous advocacy groups in the state including, among others: the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, New York Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters of New York State, StateWide Senior Action Council, NYS Public Health Association, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, NOW-NY, ACT UP NY, Harlem United, Latino Commission on AIDS, Latinos for Healthcare Equity, the WESPAC Foundation, and SAGE NY, which advocates for and provides healthcare and other services to LGBT elders. You can see many memos in support of these and other organizations here.

The legislation is also strongly supported by Death with Dignity Albany, End of Life Choices New York and the Completed Life Initiative.

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

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