Task Force Spent Six Months Studying the Issue to Give Terminally Ill Patients the Right to Die with Dignity

Portland, Oregon, January 22, 2024 – The New York State Bar Association officially backed a proposed state law to allow medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients in the State Legislature on Friday, January 19. This is the first time since the bill was introduced nine years ago that the Bar has taken a position, helping to pave the way for a successful vote this legislative session.

Sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, NY A995/S2445 would allow a qualified terminally ill patient diagnosed within six months of death to request and receive a prescription for medication to peacefully end their life. Similar to requirements in ten other U.S. states and Washington D.C., the patient must be capable of making their own health care decisions, act voluntarily, and be able to self-administer the medication.

After a lengthy review of the bill and interviews with dozens of experts over the past six months, the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Medical Aid in Dying released a 60-page report calling for passage of the law.

“This is a huge step forward in the passage of a Death with Dignity law this session in New York. To have the support of the state’s most respected and influential lawyers is a clear signal that medical aid in dying legislation works effectively to relieve suffering and offer autonomy to dying patients,” said Dr. Peg Sandeen, CEO of Death with Dignity. “This policy has strong support from residents of the state, and the New York Legislature should vote this session to make medical aid in dying the law in New York.”

Senator Hoylman-Sigal said, “I’m pleased that the New York State Bar Association agrees with the two-thirds of New York state residents and doctors that people should be entitled to choose their own end-of-life path when facing a terminal illness. This is not a political or partisan issue. It is a human one, one that gives people who will imminently die a measure of autonomy over how much pain and suffering they must endure. We can show our love by allowing those who choose to end their suffering peacefully the right to do so. This is the year we join the other states across the country that have already legalized medically assisted death and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.”

Assemblymember Paulin added “I thank the New York State Bar Association for their careful analysis and backing of New York’s Medical Aid in Dying proposed legislation. With the NYSBA’s support, we are now one step closer to making this important, safe, and compassionate end-of-life option available to New Yorkers.”

Professor David Hoffman, who teaches Bioethics at Columbia University, was one of the expert witnesses who spoke before the Task Force. As an officer of the board of the Completed Life Initiative, Professor Hoffman said, “The proposed medical aid in dying law has proven to be an effective and compassionate end-of-life option for dying patients in the states where it has been enacted already.” 

He added, “This carefully considered decision by the NY State Bar recognizes this well-crafted proposed law strikes that necessary balance that ensures dying patients are acting of their own free will, and are capable of making their own health care decisions while ensuring they are receiving the proper end of life care they desire.”

The bills are currently awaiting action in the Joint Health Care Committee. Currently, there are 21 Senate sponsors and 65 Assembly sponsors.

For media inquiries, please contact Elia Lawatsch: [email protected]