Compassion & Choices Praises Legislators Who’ve Met with Dying New Yorkers Advocating for Medical Aid in Dying; Urges Legislature to Pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act ASAP

February 16, 2022

WIVB-4 Buffalo Story Highlights WNY State Legislators Who Refused Request from Dr. Robert Milch – Co-Founder of Buffalo Hospice – To Meet or Talk, As Dr. Milch Was Terminally Ill and Dying

Compassion & Choices’ Senior New York Campaign Director Corinne Carey expressed her disappointment with several state legislators from Western New York who refused to meet with Dr. Robert Milch, co-founder of Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo, when he requested the opportunity to speak with them as he was dying from cancer. The news of their refusal to meet was highlighted in an interview with his daughter, Melissa Milch, that aired Tuesday night at 6pm on WIVB-TV4 in Buffalo. Below is the key part of the transcript of the nearly 8-minute story.

Reporter Luke Moretti (Starting at 05:55):

“…Melissa Milch says her dad had spent a lot of time before he died, reaching out to lawmakers in hopes of persuading them to support medical aid in dying.

Reporter Luke Moretti:

“Were they receptive, the people he talked to?”

Melissa Milch:

“No one returned his calls.”

Reporter Luke Moretti:


Melissa Milch:

“I wish I knew why. I wish for him to have his phone, to have just a call answered. But no one returned his calls.”

Dr. Bob Milch, co-founder of Hospice, who died from cancer in June 2021.

Reporter Luke Moretti:

“No one returned his call?”

Melissa Milch:


Reporter Luke Moretti:

“Can you tell us who they are?”

Melissa Milch:

“They know who they are.”

“New Yorkers continue to suffer at the end of their lives – needlessly – because the Legislature has so far failed to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.4321a/S.6471). There are nearly 70 legislators who demonstrate great leadership and commitment, sponsoring the bill and urging their colleagues to join them,” Carey said. “While I can focus on my disappointment at a handful of Western New York legislators for ignoring Dr. Milch at the end, I’d rather focus on the many more legislators who have shown great leadership in their actions – meeting with, listening to and trying to comfort dying New Yorkers, some their constituents, some not.

“I choose to focus on Sen. Brad Hoylman, who went to the Manhattan home of his award-winning constituent, filmmaker Barbara Hammer, not long before she died, visiting for two hours with Barbara and her partner, Florrie Burke,” Carey said. “I will be forever grateful to both Sen. Diane Savino and Assem. Karines Reyes for the time they each spent – virtually – with Jennifer Milich of Buffalo, before she reached the stage where she can no longer communicate.

“Another Buffalonian, Bernadette Hoppe, passed away after a long battle with cancer. But she was – even as she knew she was dying – so appreciative of Sen. Tim Kennedy who took the time to talk with her when she visited the Capitol to advocate for medical aid in dying,” Carey said. “Assem. Pam Hunter was so gracious to Jim Wiggins, and his wife, Betsy, meeting with them virtually when Jim could no longer travel to Albany.

“Assemblyman Fred Thiele is a wonderful legislator and has proved to be an even better friend. When his friend, Zachary Cohen, was dying last year, Fred and Zach sat for a videotaped discussion of medical aid in dying,” Carey said. “These legislators and so many others – not the few – are the reason I’m so confident that New York lawmakers will soon stop needless suffering for many New Yorkers and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.”

Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live to request  prescription medication from their doctor they can take when their suffering becomes too great to bear and die peacefully. Ten states, along with Washington, D.C., including New York neighbors New Jersey and Vermont, authorize medical aid in dying.

recent Marist poll shows strong support, 59-36 percent, for medical aid in dying among all New York voters, with majority support among Republicans, Democrats and independents, upstaters and downstaters, regardless of race or gender.

Recently, Compassion & Choices unveiled a new 30-second online ad, “In memory of Dr. Robert Milch.” A longtime advocate of medical aid in dying and prolific author, Dr. Milch died from cancer on June 4, 2021, at the age of 78. His wife Linda, and two of his children, Melissa and Heidi, are featured in the ad. Melissa’s son, Ari Klein, a high school senior is a medical aid in dying advocate and author, just like his grandfather

The legislation is supported by numerous advocacy groups in the state including, among others: 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.

“How many more of our advocates have to spend their dying days fighting for this compassionate option for others – not even themselves? They knew the law would not be passed in time for them. Just last year, we lost Dr. Milch, a mentor and friend. We also lost Zoe, and Zachary Cohen from Long Island; Deborah Panitch, John Flynn, and Bonnie Edelstein from the capital region; and Gene Hughes from Utica,” Carey said. “As Dr. Milch so aptly put it in his final OpEd, ‘The inaction by the Legislature to make medical aid in dying available to New Yorkers has become punitive.’ The time to change that is now. Legislators, stop the suffering and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.”

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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