The Arc New York – One of the Leaders in Supporting New Yorkers with Disabilities – Supports Medical Aid in Dying

Resource Center for Independent Living Neutral on Issue

The Arc New York, one of the leading organizations serving New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, supports Medical Aid in Dying. 

The group’s Board of Governors has adopted a resolution that: “Mentally competent adults capable of making decisions for themselves who are dying of a terminal illness (typically 6 months or less to live) should have the option to obtain a prescription from their physician for medication if end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable so they can bring about a peaceful death.” 

The Arc New York is a family-led organization that advocates and provides support and services to people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities, emphasizing choice and community engagement. With 52 Chapters across New York State, The Arc New York supports more than 60,000 individuals, employs 30,000 people, and has a membership of more than 100,000. 

Also, LIFE at RCIL – Living Independently is For Everyone, Resource Center for Independent Living – based in Utica with offices in Amsterdam and Herkimer, has taken a neutral stance. 

LIFE at RCIL issued a statement that said: “The Board of Directors of LIFE at RCIL understands this is an emotional, moral and complex issue and that many people have strongly held views on both sides. As a Board, we have chosen at this time not to take apposition either supporting or opposing the bill. We will instead seek to provide and promote education on this issue so the public can determine for themselves if this legislation should be passed.”

Gene Hughes of Utica was injured in an automobile accident in 1983. He has been in a wheelchair ever since. Gene’s story supports the 16th reason in Compassion & Choices’ 50 Reasons to Pass Medical Aid in Dying NOW Campaign: “So that at the end of my life, I have the autonomy that I fought so hard for since my first day in a wheelchair.”

Gene Hughes of Utica, NY, who has been in a wheelchair since an automobile accident in 1983, tells reporter at New York State Capitol why he supports the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act.

“To advocate and strive for equality only gets cheapened by the claim that we are now vulnerable, or our lives are somehow now diminished because of a law,” Hughes said. “Allowing people with disabilities to make this decision at the end of life would empower us and legitimize our autonomy. We want control in life and we want control at the end of life.

“My life’s value cannot be diminished by medical aid in dying. To the contrary, my life would be empowered by passage of the Medical Aid in Dying Act. It would give me the autonomy I’ve worked so hard to maintain since my very first day in a wheelchair,” Hughes said.

“I hear from some legislators, journalists and others that it will be hard to pass this bill given the opposition from the Catholic Church, the Medical Society of the State of New York and the disability community,” said Corinne Carey, Compassion & Choices’ Senior New York Campaign Director. “But the reality is that is not true because the majority of Catholic New Yorkers support this compassionate bill, the vast majority of New York physicians support the bill, and the New York Academy of Family Physicians has endorsed it. A handful of leaders in the disability community oppose the bill, but they certainly don’t speak for all New Yorkers with disabilities.”

“I have long admired the work done by The Arc New York supporting tens of thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities. But my admiration has only grown for their inspired leadership and demonstration of compassion in supporting the Medical Aid in Dying Act. I also applaud LIFE at RCIL for moving to a neutral stance in recognition of the fact that many in the disability community support medical aid in dying,” Carey said. “And what can I say about Gene Hughes, one of the bravest, toughest, best people I know? Gene’s fierce determination and inarguable logic will unquestionably be part of the reason this bill becomes a law.”

New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.2694/S.3947) with 57 legislative sponsors, including the chairs of both the Assembly and Senate Health committees, would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and take medication – should they choose – to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.

The bill is supported by: New York State Academy of Family Physicians, League of Women Voters of New York State, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York State Public Health Association, StateWide Senior Action Council, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Harlem United, Latino Commission on AIDS, Latinos for Healthcare Equity, among many others.