Thousands of New Yorkers Sign Up to Support Aid-in-Dying Law at State Fair

September 7, 2016

Advocates for aid-in-dying legislation took their grassroots campaign to the New York State Fair last week. Compassion & Choices New York (C&C) showcased their cause to the record-setting 1.1 million attendees. C&C volunteers had one-on-one conversations with more than 6,000 New Yorkers at its table and generated more than 4,200 postcards from New York voters asking their representatives in Albany to support the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act.

“We were thrilled by how many New Yorkers came to our table and said they are behind the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Our volunteers could hardly keep up with the interest, it was so inspiring!” said Corinne Carey, New York State Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “It is clear that New Yorkers want the same end-of-life options available to millions of other Americans in other states, and Compassion & Choices is committed to making aid in dying an additional end-of-life option for terminally ill people in our state.”

Sponsored by Senator Diane J. Savino and Assembly member Amy Paulin, the Medical Aid in Dying Act (S7579/A10059) would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option to request a prescription from a doctor for medication that they can, if they choose, self-administer to die peacefully if their suffering at the end of life becomes unbearable.

Dozens of volunteers from across the state signed up to staff the table and talk to fellow New Yorkers at the fair. One volunteer was Gene Hughes, a disability rights advocate from Utica. “Self-determination has always been the goal of people living with disabilities,” said Hughes. “I volunteered with Compassion & Choices at the fair because I believe that we all deserve expanded end-of-life options.” Another volunteer was Dr. David Pratt, who works with an outpatient palliative care program in Schenectady. “As a provider, I know that there are limits to what even the best palliative care can provide,” said Dr. Pratt, “Having the option of medical aid in dying when all of our best efforts to alleviate pain and suffering fail makes sense to New Yorkers.”

In a historic vote, the Medical Aid in Dying Act passed the New York State Assembly Health Committee last May and will be reintroduced in the new legislative session in January of 2017. C&C New York and advocates from around the state will continue their outreach to voters and lawmakers in the coming session to bring the medical option of aid in dying to New York.

A 2015 Eagle Point Strategies poll shows that three out of four New York voters across political and religious affiliations and in every region of the state support aid in dying as an end-of-life medical option for terminally ill adults.

Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in five states: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and most recently, California. It will be on the ballot as a citizen initiative in Colorado in November.

The New York Medical Aid in Dying Act is modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and similar laws in other states:

  • It allows only qualified, terminally ill and mentally capable adults the option to request and obtain a prescription from their physician for medication that the patient can self-administer to bring about a peaceful and humane death.  Two physicians must confirm the prognosis is terminal.
  • Patients must be referred to a mental health professional for evaluation if deemed necessary by either physician.
  • It requires two witnesses to attest that the request is voluntary.
  • It protects physicians from civil or criminal liability, and from professional disciplinary action, if they fulfill an eligible individual’s request. Participation by doctors is fully voluntary.
  • It provides safeguards against any coercion of patients; it allows for criminal law prosecution for coercing or forging a request; and it honors a patient’s right to rescind the request.
  • It ensures that life insurance payments cannot be denied to the beneficiaries of those who use the law.
  • It specifies that any action taken in accordance with the bill will not constitute “suicide” or “assisted suicide.”

Compassion & Choices
Media Contacts

Sean Crowley
Media Relations Director
[email protected]

Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
[email protected]
(323) 819 0310

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