By Chris Haring

New York state legislators Amy Paulin and Brad Hoylman-Sigal explain why their colleagues should urgently pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act this year.

By 2016, when the debate around medical aid in dying gained significant traction in New York, five other jurisdictions across the United States had passed an assisted death bill. Since then, the number of those with laws permitting the practice has doubled, and the aid-in-dying movement continues to grow exponentially. 

Still, New Yorkers are not legally allowed to end their suffering when faced with the final stages of a terminal illness – an unfortunate reality two New York lawmakers are determined to see change in the immediate future.

Despite public outcry, end-of-life options remain restricted

Eight years ago, when Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and then-Senator Diane Savino introduced the first aid-in-dying bill in New York’s legislative history, the widespread public support displayed for physician-assisted death would perhaps have suggested that by now, the right to die would have become state law.

However, despite the momentum of the aid-in-dying movement both within New York and the greater United States, a more recent version of the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A995/S2445) – introduced by Paulin and state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) in 2023 – was once again punted to the following legislative session after failing to advance beyond the committee stage last June.

For New Yorkers with terminal illnesses, the need is urgent

That’s why, as the sponsors recently wrote in an editorial, it’s more critical than ever that their colleagues listen to – and act on – the will of their constituents, and legally permit qualified patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses to choose when and how they die.

Too many New Yorkers – including several courageous right-to-die advocates, they said – have died after “suffering in agony, while begging the state legislature to pass” medical aid in dying. Although it is too late to help those who have already died, the opportunity remains to provide some measure of comfort to those in the state who might find themselves in an unfortunate circumstance in the future, the lawmakers added.

The Death with Dignity movement has spoken – now it’s time for lawmakers to act

Ultimately, as Paulin and Hoylman-Sigal explained, New Yorkers have made their voices heard time and time again through polls, organized campaigns and protests, and more. At the day’s end, however, it’s up to the majority of legislators in the state to listen to the bipartisan coalition of voters who know that in 2024, it would be downright tragic to wait another year to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

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 full article below:

Why Passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act Is a Top Priority in 2024

By: Assemblymember Amy Paulin and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal
Published: January 16, 2024

One of our top priorities for 2024 is finally passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act to enable our terminally ill constituents to gently end unbearable suffering. The time is now after nine years of legislative debate on this compassionate legislation.

Medical aid in dying allows terminally ill adults – capable of making their own health care decisions – with a prognosis of six months or less to live, to request a prescription that they can self-ingest to die peacefully in their sleep. It is currently authorized in 10 states and Washington, D.C., including nearby states New Jersey, Vermont and Maine.

This compassionate end-of-life care option allows people who are dying – and will soon die regardless of the quality of their medical care – to eliminate needless pain and suffering in their final days. Nobody wants to suffer and nobody wants to watch a loved one suffer. Passing this bill is all about providing compassion and love, while reducing unnecessary suffering.

We could go into great detail about the dozens of terminally ill advocates for this bill who have died – often suffering in agony – while begging the state legislature to pass the bill. We’ve talked to so many of these brave people. Some hoped we would pass the law in time to help them. We didn’t. But we have the opportunity to help so many other terminally ill New Yorkers.

Notably, we’ve also met the children and other family members of people who availed themselves of medical aid-in-dying laws in other states. They’ve shared their stories – sad, bittersweet but also inspiring – about how their loved ones were able to have a sense of autonomy over their dying process and how that brought them peace. And the loving goodbyes they generously shared with us never fail to bring a tear to our eyes.

We could also go into great detail about all the safeguards built into this legislation. that are modeled after the safeguards in the 11 jurisdictions where medical aid in dying is currently authorized. And in the last quarter-century since Oregon implemented the first medical aid-in-dying law in the country in 1997, there has never been one credible case of one of these laws being misused. Not one.

But our colleagues know all this because we’ve been educating them and they’ve been hearing from their constituents. And our colleagues also know that states where medical aid in dying is authorized show significantly better use of hospice and palliative care than states where it is not yet authorized.

They also know that medical aid in dying is strongly supported by a majority of New Yorkers – upstaters and downstaters, men and women, Democrats, Republicans and independent voters – in poll after poll. In the most recent Siena College poll of New York State voters in November 2023, support was nearly twice as high as opposition, 58-30%.

This is not a political or partisan issue. This is a human issue that gives people who will imminently die some measure of autonomy over how much pain and suffering they must endure before they die.

We have an opportunity to pass a law with strong public support that will demonstrate our compassion and love for our fellow New Yorkers who are dying. It’s time. Let’s pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Now.

Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) chairs the Assembly Health Committee. She has served in the New York State Assembly since 2001.

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has served in the New York State Senate since 2013.