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Increasing Momentum for Death with Dignity Seen in New York

Compassion & Choices Comments on Death-with-Dignity Lawsuit Brought By Doctors and Terminally Ill New Yorkers

(Portland, OR – Feb. 4, 2015) Today, a group of doctors and terminally ill residents of New York filed a lawsuit in the state’s Supreme Court “to clarify the ability of mentally competent, terminally ill New York patients to obtain aid in dying from their physician.” The suit asks the court “to declare that patients facing the end of life have a right under the New York State Constitution to make autonomous decisions about their bodies.”

Compassion & Choices, the oldest and largest organization committed to improving end-of-life care, is working in Albany and throughout the state to make death with dignity available to New Yorkers. A forthcoming bill, similar to Oregon’s 20-year old Death with Dignity Act, would give a mentally competent, terminally ill adult New York resident the option to request a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that they can take – when and whether they choose – if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee commented on today’s news of the lawsuit as follows:

“News of this lawsuit is more evidence of the momentum that Brittany Maynard’s campaign with Compassion & Choices has created. Nationwide, we expect 22 legislatures to consider bills modeled on Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act this year. The Oregon law’s 17-year, completely transparent record of practice shows that the medical option of aid in dying improves end-of-life care overall, and benefits those who access it.

“Compassion & Choices New York continues to work with legislative champions, Senators Diane Savino and Brad Hoylman, on crafting a law based on the one that has worked so well in Oregon. When Brittany Maynard’s widower, Dan Diaz, met with Senator Savino in January, he thanked her for advancing the kind of law his wife had wanted to see in every state. Legislation is the best way to ensure New Yorkers have long-term access to aid in dying, and that physicians have the support and assurances they need to provide this end-of-life option. 

“It is notable that this suit is sponsored by a disability rights organization. We know support for death with dignity is strong among individuals with disabilities. This suit should put to rest the argument that death with dignity poses risks to people in the disability community.”