Dr. Robert Milch

Internationally acclaimed surgeon and co-founder of Hospice Buffalo, Dr. Robert Milch urged New York lawmakers to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act for years before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Dr. Milch died on June 4, 2021.

“The notion of medical aid in dying is a natural extension of the choices, options, which patients should have a legitimate claim to in end-of-life care.”

Below is an excerpt of an op-ed by Dr. Milch published posthumously in Empire Report on June 10, 2021.

I am going to die soon. Very soon.

This is not hyperbole. Unfortunately for me, it is a simple and indisputable fact…

I have had a wonderful life with no regrets. I have a loving family that means more to me than anything else. I’ve had an amazing career as a doctor, a surgeon, and as medical director at Hospice Buffalo. I lie here with the comfort of knowing that I have helped thousands of Western New Yorkers and their families over the last 40 years.

But I also lie here knowing that should my pain and suffering become unbearable – despite receiving the best palliative and hospice care – there is nothing I can do about it, except suffer.

That’s why I’ve been advocating for many years – this is not a deathbed conversion – for New York lawmakers to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. This compassionate legislation would allow a mentally capable adult with an incurable and irreversible illness or disease to request a prescription that they can decide to self-ingest to die peacefully to end needless, intolerable suffering.

While 10 states, including New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine, along with Washington, D.C., have authorized medical aid in dying, lawmakers in Albany refuse to act – some of them won’t even talk about the bill – despite five years of debate on this issue…

The inaction by the Legislature to make medical aid in dying available to New Yorkers has become punitive. We have all the data we need from decades of experience in other states. Legislators, you need not endorse this end-of-life care option, but for goodness sake, don’t prohibit it. And by not acting on it, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

I was asked four years ago, long before I was touched by cancer whether I would want this option for myself. I said then: “Absolutely. Given the way I’ve lived my life, the values and philosophy I have, and knowing that my family shares those values and is supportive. I want the option.”

Well, I’m not going to get that option unless the Legislature pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat before adjourning on June 10. You see, I will be dead by the time the 2022 legislation session starts.

So, if our lawmakers don’t do it for me, I at least pray that they will pass this bill so no other New Yorker will suffer needlessly.

Read more at Empire Report

Dr. Milch’s Legacy of Advocacy

Dr. Milch advocated for the authorization of medical aid in dying in New York for years before his terminal cancer diagnosis. His family continues to advocate for medical aid in dying in his memory.

December 14, 2021 – The Buffalo News: Another Voice: Medical aid-in-dying bill needs a legislative push by Ari Klein, Dr. Milch’s grandson

February 23, 2021 – Empire Report: Dr. Robert Milch – Medical Aid in Dying Can Ease Suffering for Many New Yorkers. That’s Why a Strong Majority of New York Physicians Supports It.

June 6, 2019 – Times Union (Albany): Letter: Assisted suicide poses no threat

April 23, 2018 – Testimony before the New York State Assembly Health Committee

April 13, 2017 – The Buffalo News: Another Voice: Facts dispel concerns about aid in dying

May 22, 2016 – The Buffalo News: Op-ed: New York needs to decriminalize physician aid in dying

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