By Chris Haring

Ayla Eilert’s parents hope their daughter’s heartbreaking story inspires New York lawmakers to honor her memory by voting to legalize medical aid in dying.

When Ayla Rain Eilert moved to New York City from her comparatively quiet family home in New Jersey at the tender age of 23, she had begun to turn her passions for art, dance, and yoga into a promising career.

However, her vibrant life took a drastic turn when, after noticing a few sores on her tongue and some pain in her neck, she was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. After seven months of aggressive but ultimately futile treatments, she died shortly after her 24th birthday.

When treatment fails, individuals deserve the right to Death with Dignity

Despite Ayla’s remarkably courageous outlook upon diagnosis and the best efforts of her doctors, her condition rapidly worsened, marked by increasingly unbearable pain and suffering. 

Eventually, as Lauren Lovallo recently wrote for The Staten Island Advance/, the brave young woman sought relief through medical aid in dying. However, the practice is not yet legal in New York State. 

Rather than allowing Ayla to exercise her right to die with the dignity and autonomy that she deserved by utilizing Death with Dignity, her circumstances practically forced her to wither away in a hospital bed, as her condition had become unmanageable for her home hospice care team.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act would bring some solace to terminally ill patients and their families

Ayla’s parents, Daren and Amy, said they watched helplessly as their daughter endured relentless agony, with her pleas for Death with Dignity unanswered due to legal constraints. Their heart-wrenching ordeal underscores the urgent need for legislation like the NY Medical Aid in Dying Act (A995/S2445), which is being considered again this year by the New York Legislature.

The proposed bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (District 88) and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (District 47) and championed by aid-in-dying advocates like Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton (District 23), aims to provide compassionate end-of-life options for individuals facing incurable conditions. 

Aid in dying as a legal end-of-life option enjoys broad, bipartisan support

Scarcella-Spanton emphasizes that physician-assisted death is not about politics but about empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their own lives. “This is not a partisan issue, it’s not a Democrat versus Republican issue,” she said.

With overwhelming support from the public – including 72% of New Yorkers according to a recent poll commissioned by Death with Dignity – and endorsements from reputable organizations, including the New York State Bar Association and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Medical Aid in Dying Act clearly reflects the will of constituents from across the state.

Ayla’s story illustrates the importance of working to ensure medical aid in dying’s accessibility to residents of every state. 

Now, as the 2024 legislative session approaches its end in New York, the outcome of the Medical Aid in Dying Act hangs in the balance. We honor Ayla’s memory by supporting this legislation so that others facing similar circumstances in the future may have the choice that she so desperately desired – and deserved.

For more information on the status of Death with Dignity in New York, please visit the state page on our website, and check out the full article by Lauren Lovallo here.