Compassion & Choices NY Weekly Why: Data Doesn’t Lie (Feb. 7)

February 7, 2022

Distributed to New York State Lawmakers via email February 7, 2022:

Many of you have asked how medical aid in dying laws are working in the 10 states (+ Washington, D.C.) that have authorized them. We’ve compiled the data from across these jurisdictions and put them in an easy-to-digest format, with links to the sources from each states’ data-reporting entities so you can see the raw data for yourself.
In brief, here are some important take-aways from the data:
  • In states that have recently authorized medical aid in dying, very few people are using the law. In New Jersey, just 45 people used the law in the first two years since it took effect in 2019.
  • In Oregon, the state that has had a medical aid in dying law for the longest time (since 1997), less than ½ of 1% of all deaths in that state involve medical aid in dying.
  • More than 86% of people who obtained a prescription for medical aid in dying were receiving hospice care at the time they died, which demonstrates that authorizing medical aid in dying does not create an either/or situation, but rather, medical aid in dying becomes part of a comprehensive end-of-life care plan, which includes palliative care and hospice.
  • Terminal cancer accounts for the vast majority of qualifying diagnoses, with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS or Huntington’s Disease following as the second leading diagnosis.
  • Nearly 90% of people who used medical aid in dying were able to die at home. According to various studies, most Americans would prefer to die at home.
  • More than ⅓ of those who receive a prescription for medication under medical aid in dying laws never end up using the prescription. Families have reported that their loved ones felt a tremendous sense of peace of mind simply knowing that there was an option if their suffering became too great to bear, even if they never took the medication.
  • Perhaps most importantly, there have been no reported problems with the implementation or operation of any of these laws in any of the 11 jurisdictions.
New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.4321a/S6471) is modeled after the law approved by Oregon’s voters in 1994, with the same core safeguards, just like every other state that has passed a medical aid in dying law. Those core safeguards require that a person who receives a prescription for medical aid in dying:
  • be an adult;
  • make the request on their own;
  • be terminally ill with 6 or less months to live;
  • be mentally capable of making their own medical decisions;
  • be able to self-ingest the medication to bring about a peaceful death.
If you’ve already added your name as a co-sponsor of the bill, on behalf of the vast majority of your constituents who support this bill, I thank you. I hope this information helps you as you talk to your colleagues and others who want to understand the issue better.
If you are not yet signed on as a co-sponsor, I hope this compilation of data gives you the information you need to come to your own conclusions about how well these laws are working in other states. I also hope that this data persuades you to take action this year. If so, please contact the bill sponsors (Assemblymember Amy Paulin and Senator Diane Savino) to sign on as a co-sponsor. This is the best way to show your constituents that you support this compassionate legislation.
Thank you for your consideration, and I hope you have a great week.


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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