By Chris Haring
Two Lower Hudson Valley volunteers share personal anecdotes as a part of their ongoing attempts to bring a Death with Dignity law to their home state
Should a residential address or zip code determine whether or not a person has the autonomy to decide when and how they die?
For too many across the country, a matter of miles might make all the difference, and New Yorkers are no exception. Despite overwhelmingly positive public perception and the continuous efforts by its right-to-die movement spanning nearly a decade, the state’s Medical Aid In Dying Act (A995/S2445) has yet to receive substantial consideration in its legislative sessions.
Although three Pacific Northwest states – Oregon, Washington, and Montana – were the first to legalize medical aid in dying, several Northeastern counterparts soon followed suit. However, unlike their neighbors living in New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, and Washington, D.C., New Yorkers with terminal illnesses are still barred from full access to expanded end-of-life options.
In a recent piece for the Yonkers Times, volunteer leaders Stacey Gibson and Laura Kelly shared their experiences as they called for the legislation to come to a vote in 2024.
Gibson said her recounting of her late husband’s plea for assisted death while suffering from a progressive motor neuron disease in 2014 resonated with Kelly, whose father similarly expressed his desire for a peaceful end to his struggle with Stage 4 colon cancer the following year. United by their distress, the Lower Hudson Valley residents have joined forces ever since with the goal that other families should not experience the prolonged pain and heartache that theirs did.
Although a series of polls show clear, broad support for physician-assisted dying, a frequently cited reason for the bill’s stagnation is the perceived deficit of direct constituent support voiced to legislators. Thus, as Albany’s next legislative session commences in January, the authors urge New Yorkers to advocate persistently for the bill throughout the year to ensure its passage.
Their call to action is straightforward: engage with representatives, rally community support, and sustain pressure until the Medical Aid In Dying Act becomes law. Every voice contributes to securing compassionate end-of-life options for those in need.
For more information on how to get involved in efforts to bring a Death with Dignity law to New York, please visit the state page on our website.
Read the story below:
WHY HAS THE MEDICAL AID-IN-DYING ACT NEVER BEEN BROUGHT TO A VOTE IN NEW YORK?
By STACEY GIBSON AND LAURA E. KELLY
published: November 18, 2023
When Garrison resident Stacey Gibson’s husband Sid was dying in agony in 2014 from a horrific progressive motor neuron disease, he requested medical aid in dying to bring his suffering to a close.
When Mount Kisco resident Laura Kelly’s father, Larry, was at the end of his battle against Stage 4 colon cancer in 2015, he, too, asked for medical aid in dying so he could die at a time of his choosing, in peace, with his family around him.
Neither man was able to get his wish because medical aid in dying is not legal in New York. Their deaths were unnecessarily traumatic for both them and their families.
When Laura read about Stacey and Sid Gibson’s travails in a local newspaper, she joined Stacey in her advocacy for the Medical Aid in Dying Act, first introduced in New York 2015.
We began our advocacy eight long years ago, assuming that a humane bill that allows a terminally ill, mentally competent adult with a prognosis of six months or less the option to obtain prescription medication they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable, would quickly pass in our state.
We were wrong. Year after year, the legislative session ends in Albany and we learn that yet again the Medical Aid in Dying Act has not even been brought up for a vote. Why has this painstakingly well-vetted legislation, already in effect for years in 10 states (including nearby New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, and Washington, D.C.), not had a fair hearing in New York?
One big reason the legislators give us is that, although New York State polls show a majority support for this legislation across our state, the representatives are not hearing enough support personally for this bill from their own constituents.
When we are out in the community, we have learned that folks simply assume that this bill will become law in our state, and are often surprised it isn’t already. Unfortunately, assumptions haven’t proved to be enough. Far too few of us are taking the step to actually call or write our representatives and make it clear we expect our NYS Senator and Assemblyperson to support this law.
We all need to be advocates for terminally ill people who have enjoyed control and autonomy throughout their lives and now may want this same freedom to have self-determination at a very critical life moment. None of us knows what the future holds for us, but we should be able to have access to as many options as possible.
The new legislative session in Albany opens in January 2024. Too many terminally ill New Yorkers have already greatly suffered while dying as they waited for our legislators to act. This must be the year we pass the medical aid-in-dying option for all New Yorkers.
Contact your representatives today and tell them you want the Medical Aid in Dying Act A995/S2445 to become law in 2024. And tell your friends and neighbors throughout the state to call today. Then call your representative next week. And yes keep calling throughout 2024 until this bill becomes law. Every call and letter is tallied. Make your voices heard.
We cannot afford to wait any longer.