Rochester Advocates Demand Passage of the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023 as Part of Compassion & Choices’ Statewide Campaign

December 5, 2022

“Patient decisions must not be limited at the end of life. Legislators, get this done.”

I beg legislators to help me fulfill her last wish & pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.”

Compassion & Choices Senior New York Campaign Director Corinne Carey said that the campaign to make New York the 11th state to authorize medical aid in dying will intensify and continue to be engaged in every corner of the state. Carey and several local residents participated in a Rochester news conference today – the third leg of a two-month, statewide grassroots campaign to demand that the State Legislature pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023.

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’s neighbors New Jersey and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C., authorize medical aid in dying. A recent Marist poll shows strong support for medical aid in dying among New York state voters, 59-36 percent, including majority support across the geographic, political and racial spectrum.

Carey said: “Over the last several years, too many New Yorkers – including dozens of advocates who became friends – have suffered at the end of their lives as legislators ignored their pleas to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Enough is enough. We are traveling to every corner of the state to make sure legislators know that their constituents are demanding action. Lawmakers must stop turning their backs on New Yorkers suffering at the end of life.”

Rochester resident Susan Rahn, who is living with metastatic breast cancer, said: “Medical aid in dying is a very personal decision that should be afforded to those terminally ill patients who wish to die peacefully and without suffering. People with life-threatening illnesses can make autonomous decisions regarding their treatment every day. Patient decisions must not be limited at the end of life. Legislators, get this done.”

Rochester resident Scott Barraco, who lost the first love of his life, Cathy Quinn, to a horrific death after a two-year battle with tongue cancer, said: “Cathy didn’t want to die. She was a vibrant person full of plans when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of tongue cancer that was relentless and 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, and I think we all do.”

Rochester resident Rev. Richard Gilbert, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, said: “While I fully respect everyone’s views – religious or otherwise – I do not believe that any group opposed to medical aid in dying has the right to deny that option to those of a different religious faith or view who support it. If you don’t believe it, don’t do it. I have spent many, many hours by the bedsides of the dying and marvel at their courage. But I find myself unable to answer those who tell me they wish to die rather than face prolonged and unnecessary suffering which serves no meaningful purpose. Sometimes the greatest reverence for life is to end human suffering.”

Last month, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a column from Raymond Stark of Tupper Lake. An 86-year-old Veteran now in hospice care and a lifelong Republican, Mr. Stark wrote, “Now I’m 86 and I’m dying. I strongly believe I should have the ability to decide what the end of my life looks like. It’s not for someone else to tell me I have to stay in this bed waiting around for the next heart attack. I want to go quickly and painlessly.”

“If Mr. Stark lived in Vermont – a few dozen miles from where he’s in a hospice bed – he would be eligible for medical aid in dying, an option he desperately wants. It’s because of Raymond Stark and the memory of Cathy Quinn and so many other brave New Yorkers that we will not stop until the Legislature passes the Medical Aid in Dying Act and Governor Hochul signs it into law,” Carey said.

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.

More information on medical aid in dying and the New York campaign can be found on Compassion & Choices’ websiteFacebook page, and Twitter account.

Compassion & Choices
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Patricia A. González-Portillo
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