Organizations Supporting Medical Aid in Dying Join Forces, Creating a New Alliance to Push for Passage of New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act

Compassion & Choices, Death with Dignity-Albany, Death with Dignity National Center & End of Life Choices New York Will Work Together for New Yorkers
April 16, 2018

Compassion & Choices New York, Death with Dignity-Albany, Death with Dignity National Center, and End of Life Choices New York announced that together they have formed the New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying at a Capitol news conference held today. These national and local organizations, which have all been long, strong, consistent supporters of passing New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.2383-a/S.3151-a), formed the alliance as the push to pass the bill intensifies.

Just last week, the New York State Assembly Health Committee announced hearings on the legislation in Albany (April 23) and New York City (May 3). Recently, the League of Women Voters of New York State joined a growing list of supporters of medical aid in dying.

Joining the members of the new New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying were Scott Barraco of Rochester, who supports medical aid in dying in memory of his girlfriend, Cathy Quinn, and Dr. Margaret Craven Snowden.

Corinne Carey, New York Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices, said: “Today, the momentum to enact medical aid in dying in New York intensifies. Now is the time to expand end-of-life choices to allow all New Yorkers to make decisions consistent with their values and faith. Lawmakers must hear and respect the wishes of more than three-quarters of voters who support medical aid in dying. I look forward to working with my partners and I know today is just the warm-up for the outpouring of support that legislators will see at next week’s Assembly hearing. Now is the time. Dying New Yorkers cannot wait any longer.”

Bonnie Edelstein, Director, Death with Dignity-Albany, said: “Death with Dignity-Albany is very pleased to be a partner in this dynamic alliance, with our four organizations coming together to speak with one voice in support of medical aid in dying. Together, we represent thousands of New Yorkers across the state who want the right to make their own end-of-life decisions and to have a peaceful and humane death.”

Peg Sandeen, Executive Director, Death with Dignity National Center, said: “Since Oregon first implemented the first Death with Dignity law 20 years ago, we’ve seen flawless implementation that has protected patients, family members and health care professionals. As other states have adopted Death with Dignity laws, most recently Hawaii, those states have adopted virtually the same safeguards and have had the same successful implementation. We stand ready to work side by side with these groups and New York’s Legislature to craft a law that ensures patients in New York are in control of this process and make their own decisions every step of the way – as is their right.”

Laurie Leonard, Executive Director, End of Life Choices New York, said: “We are very happy to join forces with the other groups that have worked so hard to legalize aid in dying and end the suffering that many people have endured in their last months. In other states where aid in dying is legal, the terminally ill are comforted by the fact that they have a way to avoid that suffering; New Yorkers should have that option too.”

Scott Barraco of Rochester said: “I am a fierce advocate for medical aid in dying. I do so in memory and tribute to my late girlfriend, Cathy Quinn. She wished for a better, more peaceful death than what was available to her. That’s why I’m so very excited to see the leading organizations that have committed to passing this legislation, join together as the New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying, in order to have a powerful and focused campaign towards accomplishing Cathy’s goal.”

Dr. Margaret Craven Snowden of Voorheesville said: “After practicing medicine for more than 30 years, I know that we must encourage honest, open dialogue about how people want to be cared for at the end of their lives. When a terminally ill patient is dying and has no alternative but suffering in their final days, they should have the freedom to face their passage from this life in a manner of their own choosing. Most doctors know more about dying than anybody. That’s probably why a strong majority of U.S. doctors support medical aid in dying, according to a 2017 Medscape poll.”

 In addition to the new support from the League of Women Voters of New York State, the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, the New York State Public Health Association and the Latino Commission on AIDS have all endorsed the Medical Aid in Dying Act in the last year. Other supporters include: ACT UP-NY, Harlem United, Housing Works, Mobilizing Preachers and Communities (MPAC), New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), New York Society for Ethical Culture, and StateWide Senior Action Council.

Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), lead Assembly sponsor of the Medical Aid in Dying Act, said: “This newly-announced partnership, combining  resources and perspectives from so many dedicated advocates, can only help legislators as we continue the conversation around Medical Aid in Dying. I have said many times that if I was terminally ill, I would want the option to choose to end my life calmly, peacefully, and in a dignified way, at a time and in a setting I choose, when I am surrounded by those I love. That’s what our bill is about, and I look forward to working with the New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying to make the case that all New Yorkers deserve to make that choice with their family and medical providers.”

Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), lead Senate sponsor or the bill, said: “Medical aid in dying continues to gain traction at the Capitol, as the support of the League of Women Voters of New York State and the formation of this new Alliance demonstrate. We will get this law passed because it’s the right thing to do. I look forward to hearing the testimony at the Assembly Health Committee’s hearings the next two weeks. I am the first to say this is not a program for everyone. I don’t know what my decision would be if I were in that situation. But I do know I would want the option for me and my loved ones.”

Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly Health Committee Chair and co-sponsor of the bill, said: “This bill is about patient autonomy and dignity. For over a hundred years, New York law has recognized that adults with mental capacity have the right to refuse life-saving treatment. Morally and legally, they should have the right to end their suffering through medication if that is their own choosing. We had a thoughtful and passionate debate last year when we advanced the bill out of the Health Committee, and I look forward to moving the bill forward again this session towards Assembly passage.”

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