New York Advocates Make Case For Medical Aid In Dying

May 12, 2017

Supporters from across New York gathered in Albany this week to ask lawmakers to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act, which would authorize doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill adults wishing to end their lives. 

More than 100 advocates met with dozens of lawmakers, making their case for medical aid in dying.  Former Schenectady County Commissioner of Public Health Services Doctor David Pratt is a volunteer with Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization committed to improving care and expanding options for the end of life. He says the group met with more than 50 legislators including the leaders of both the Senate and Assembly.   "We were joined by family members of individuals who had died who they believe could have benefited greatly by death with dignity, that is with medical aid in dying. In addition we had patients with advanced cancer facing death who hoped that legislation could be passed in order to afford them the opportunity to take control over the final days and weeks of their lives."

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Former Republican Assemblywoman Janet Duprey of New York’s North Country  spoke at the event. "In 1994, my dad died from mesothelioma. At the end, he had excruciating pain and even the care from hospice and prescribed morphine didn't touch that pain. Five years later, my mom, after a series of strokes, decided to remove the feeding tube which is all that was keeping her alive. I supported her decision, my family and I sat helplessly watching my mom starve, for an agonizing 11 days. I can tell you from experience, forcing a person and their loved ones to live through that kind of torture isn't something we should be proud of as a society. I can't presume that my parents would have chosen to ask for medical aid in dying at the end, but I'm certain that they should have had the ability to choose their own destiny."

Later on Tuesday, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan appeared with Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Both indicated they had reservations about the measure. And supporters of the effort are realistic about their chances before the end of the session in June.  Compassion & Choices New York Campaign Director Corinne Carey:  "We know it won't happen this year, but lawmakers need to act to make sure that 2018 becomes the year that New York State joins six other states and the District of Columbia in authorizing medical aid in dying."

The Medical Aid in Dying Act stalled last year in the Assembly Health Committee. Currently, it’s under consideration by the Health Committee and the Codes Committee.