Compassion & Choices NY Weekly Why: Because the Medical Aid in Dying Act makes sense for New York (Jan. 31)

January 31, 2022

Distributed to New York State Lawmakers via email January 31, 2022:

Good morning and Happy Monday.

Do you want to know the number one reason why some of the people I’ve met in my travels across the state — from Buffalo to Brooklyn, from Montauk to Malone and everywhere in between — oppose medical aid in dying when they first hear about it? Because they don’t know what it is. When I’m able to explain what New York’s Medical Aid in Dying would do, and what it wouldn’t do, almost every person I’ve met either wholeheartedly supports giving terminally ill adults this compassionate option, or they believe that even if the option is not one they would choose, no one should tell another they can’t.

[One of your colleagues, Assemblymember Fred Thiele, penned an opinion piece in Newsday, Time to Pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act, that was published last Thursday. ICYMI, you can read it here, and I’ve attached it to this email.]

If you’ve agreed to meet with our campaign over the past few years, thank you. I hope we’ve been able to answer this question to your satisfaction, and this message will be a recap of the basics. If you haven’t yet met with us, I hope you’ll consider it in the near future. In the meantime, let’s answer the question:

New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (like every other medical aid in dying law in the United States) is modeled after Oregon’s 1994 Death with Dignity Act, with all of its core eligibility requirements.

To be eligible for aid-in-dying medication, a person who wants this option must meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. Be an adult, aged 18 or older

  2. Have a terminal illness that is incurable and irreversible

  3. Have a prognosis of 6 months or less

  4. Be mentally capable of making an informed health care decision

In addition, New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act contains a dozen safeguards to protect against abuse:

  • Two physicians must confirm that the person is terminally ill with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, is making an informed health care decision and is not being coerced.

  • The attending physician must inform the requesting individual about all of their end-of-life care options, including palliative care and hospice.

  • There is a mandatory mental health evaluation if either physician has concerns about the person’s mental capacity to make their own healthcare decisions. The mental health provider must confirm in writing the dying person’s capacity before a prescription can be written.

  • The individual must make an oral and a written request for aid-in-dying medication, witnessed by two adults.

  • The terminally ill person can withdraw their request for aid-in-dying medication, not take the medication once they have it or otherwise change their mind at any point in time.

  • The individual must be able to self-ingest the medication.

  • No physician, health provider or pharmacist is required to participate in medical aid in dying.

  • Those who do and comply with all aspects of the law receive civil and criminal immunity.

  • Anyone attempting to coerce a patient will face criminal prosecution.

  • Unused medication must be disposed of as required by state and federal laws.

  • Health insurance benefits are unaffected by the availability of medical aid in dying and life insurance payments can’t be denied to the families of people who use the law.

  • The New York Health Commissioner is required to issue a publicly available annual report about the usage of the law. Patient and physician identifying information is kept confidential.

If you’d like an even deeper dive into the facts about medical aid in dying, please click here. And if you have any questions that aren’t answered here, I am always available to you as a resource. I hope you’ll consider reaching out. And once you’ve come to an understanding of what this bill would do, I hope you’ll consider co-sponsoring it by reaching out Assemblymember Amy Paulin or Senator Diane Savino to sign on.

You have the power to stop needless suffering in New York by passing the Medical AId in Dying Act in 2022.

Thank you for your consideration.


PS: The constituent Assemblymember Thiele wrote about in his attached opinion piece, Time to Pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act, recorded a video before he died. You can watch Zachary Cohen’s video  here.


Weekly Why Archive

Each week that New York State Lawmakers were in session in 2022, Compassion & Choices New York provided a deep dive into each of the issues surrounding New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act. You can find each of these weekly communications with lawmakers here: 

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