Compassion & Choices NY Weekly Why: Who Gets to Decide? (March 14)

March 14, 2022

Distributed to New York State Lawmakers via email March 14, 2022:

Good morning,

During my seven years of leading the campaign to improve end-of-life care and expand options, I’ve traveled to every corner of this great state and talked to thousands of New Yorkers covering every demographic and political persuasion. At a time when it feels like we’re more divided than ever, without exception everyone I met agreed on two things:


  • The importance of patient autonomy; and

  • The desire to avoid needless suffering.


As one of your colleagues told me when we spoke in the Capitol last week: those two things may be true, but not everyone believes that the answer is medical aid in dying. And he’s right. Medical aid in dying is not for everyone. Few would be eligible and fewer still would avail themselves of the option. But giving everyone the option allows everyone patient autonomy: those who would never ask for medical aid in dying, and those who want to avoid needless suffering.


Personal choice. Patient autonomy. I believe your colleague, Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson, said it best in a letter he circulated last week. In case you missed it, you can read it here, but here’s the bottom line:

If you believe in patient autonomy, in allowing every New Yorker to make their own end-of-life decisions, in allowing everyone to live and die in ways that are consistent with their own faith, their own values, and their own beliefs — refraining from treatment, extending life as long as possible, or ending suffering when it becomes unbearable — then you support what the Medical Aid in Dying Act would do for New York.


If you think that you are opposed to this legislation, ask yourself why you wouldn’t want dying New Yorkers to make their own end-of-life decisions.


In Massachusetts, lawmakers are considering a bill similar to the one you have before you, and the high court in that state just heard oral arguments last Wednesday in a case brought by a physician with phase 4 prostate cancer asserting the Massachusetts constitution guarantees the right to medical aid in dying.


After hearing arguments from the opposition Justice Serge Georges Jr. remarked:


[D]o you not see the paternalistic part of this? What interest does the government have in Dr. Kligler’s suffering? . . . What interest does the government have in telling him, “We won’t let you end your life on your terms; we’re going to make you end it on ours?” … the only interest that seems to be articulated here is, “We feel better if you can’t do that.”


If you’re not already a bill sponsor, I hope you’ll contact Assemblymember Amy Paulin or Senator Diane Savino today to add your name. If you want to talk this through, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email and let me know you’d like to discuss it.

Have a good 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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