Paulin, Hoylman-Sigal, Advocates Intensify Efforts to Pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act By June

Advocates Marched from LOB to Capitol to Honor Advocates Who Died Advocating for this Compassionate Option, Many Suffering Needlessly
April 24, 2023

Nearly 80 Co-Sponsors Push for Legislative Action Before End of Session

Assembly Health Committee Chairwoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) announced on Monday that they were intensifying their efforts to make 2023 the year that New York passes the Medical Aid in Dying Act, of which they are lead sponsors.

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 state voters, 59-36%, including majority support across the geographic, political and racial spectrum.

Scores of advocates for passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act – including relatives of New Yorkers who died suffering because they didn’t have this gentle dying option – marched from the Legislative Office Building to the Capitol to honor their deceased loved ones and demand action from the Legislature.

Daren and Amy Eilert, the parents of Ayla Rain Eilert, a Manhattan ballet dancer who died from metastatic tongue cancer at age 24.

Daren and Amy Eilert, the parents of Ayla Rain Eilert, a Manhattan ballet dancer who died from metastatic tongue cancer at age 24.

Daren and Amy Eilert, the parents of Ayla Rain Eilert, a Manhattan ballet dancer who died from metastatic tongue cancer at age 24.

Paulin said:“Upon completion of this year’s budget, passing medical aid in dying is my top legislative priority. I am determined to work with my colleagues to make this the year we finally provide terminally ill New Yorkers with the option that so many want – and that the vast majority of New Yorkers support – to stop needless suffering.

“I’ve witnessed horrific suffering at the end of life. The way my sister suffered – so needlessly – at the end of her life is a nightmare vision that stays with me every day,” Paulin said. “I’ve listened to hundreds of similar stories from grieving loved ones over these last seven years – and today – and they just break my heart. I am sick and tired of those who say that someone who is actively dying cannot have a compassionate option to stop pain and suffering. Enough is enough. We need to pass this bill and pass it this year.”

Hoylman-Sigal said: “Suffering, terminally ill people deserve peace of mind and comfort during their end of life. One in every five Americans live in a state that has legalized the trusted practice of medical aid in dying (MAID), originally introduced in Oregon 30 years ago. The most common reasons for pursuing this end-of-life option are loss of autonomy and dignity, which every New Yorker deserves to maintain. 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.”

Arelis Torres from Manhattan, whose wife was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago, said: “My beautiful wife has undergone complicated and painful treatments these last few years. We are valuing every day together and hoping there are many, many more. However, if her insidious disease progresses to the point where death will be the only inevitable option, she does not want to suffer and be in pain. Seeing that would break my heart even more.

“We don’t want to have to move to another state, like New Jersey or Vermont, so she can have the ability to access medical aid in dying. Our family is here. This is our home. I truly believe that providing a person who is actively dying with this compassionate option is one of the highest acts of love,” Torres said. “I beg legislators to pass this bill and do it now.”

Amy and Daren Eilert, the parents of Ayla Rain Eilert, a Manhattan ballet dancer who died in agony from tongue cancer that metastasized throughout her body on April 2 last year at the age of 24, said: “Just three weeks ago, we marked one year since Ayla’s death. While her life was way too short, her agonizing death was way too long. The tongue cancer spread like wildfire throughout her body after being diagnosed six months prior.
“Despite receiving the best treatment and palliative care available, in the last few weeks of her life she 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,” Amy and Daren Eilert said.

Stacey Gibson from Garrison said: “My husband, Sid, died eight years ago at the age of 68 from a degenerative neurological disease similar to ALS. While no death is welcome, Sid’s was pure and unimaginable agony. If medical aid in dying had been available, his final days could have been less traumatic, more peaceful and truly representative of the glorious life he led.

“I am a two-time cancer survivor and now face a third cancer. While I continue to receive extraordinary care thanks to amazing medical advances, I don’t know what lies ahead. What I do know is that I want access to medical aid in dying should I need it. It’s time for legislators to stop ignoring suffering and pass the bill,” Gibson said.

Rochester resident Scott Barraco, who lost a dear love, Cathy Quinn, to a horrific death after a two-year battle with tongue cancer, said: “Cathy didn’t want to die. She was vibrant and full of plans when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of tongue cancer that was relentless and made her miserable. When it became clear she would die soon, she focused on how to make the most of her limited time, and how to die peacefully. Unfortunately, she suffered greatly before she died. I beg legislators to help me fulfill her last wish and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Cathy deserved better. We all do.”

Lindsay Wright, Manhattan, whose husband Youssef Cohen died in 2016, said, “Youssef was 68 when he died in 2016 of mesothelioma, a rare, incurable cancer of the lungs that essentially leads to death by suffocation. But Youssef didn’t die at home in New York; he died on the other coast in Portland, Oregon, where medical aid in dying has been an available end-of-life care option since 1997. Think about that for a second. We moved 3,000 miles across the country so that Youssef could die peacefully, without suffering. Why? Because New York didn’t and still doesn’t offer that option.

“Just weeks before he died, Youssef said ‘I’m going to die anyhow, and this seems to me a much more humane way of dying.’ It is an outrage that dying New Yorkers do not yet have this option. I remain so angry. I call on State legislators to pass Medical Aid in Dying NOW,” Wright said.

Barbara Thomas from Saratoga Springs, and a longtime leader with the New York State League of Women Voters, recounted the suffering of her husband, Bob, who died from brain cancer. “Bob and I were together for 55 years. He was my best friend. Bob was not suicidal. He wanted to live, but his cancer ended his life. All he was asking for was assistance in ending his suffering when he couldn’t take it anymore. At one point, he asked me to get his pistol, (which was locked in a gun cabinet up a flight of stairs he could no longer climb). I didn’t, couldn’t, do it. When he died, I vowed to myself I didn’t want anyone else I love to suffer like that. And I don’t want to suffer that way either. Few terminally ill individuals will use medical aid in dying, but everybody one of them should have the option to avoid needless suffering.”

Corinne Carey, senior New York campaign director of Compassion & Choices, said: “As we stand here today, I know there are New Yorkers from every region of the state who are dying, suffering and in pain, pleading for this option. Dying people and their families have no time for politics. They have no time for continued senseless delay.

“I am proud that over the course of this campaign – which has lasted eight long years, far too long – we have been able to educate legislators and build support; we now have close to 80 cosponsors and that number continues to grow,” Carey said. “Every question about this bill has been asked and answered. The time for real action is now. Death waits for no one and the Legislature’s inaction to date leaves too many dying New Yorkers suffering and in pain. This has to change. We need them to take action now. Pass the bill.”

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 from 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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