Compassion & Choices New York today released a video featuring Jay Kallio, a 9/11 first responder who passed away on September 30, 2016 from lung cancer without being able to access medical aid in dying, legislation he passionately advocated for even prior to his own diagnosis.
The poignant video tells the story of 60-year-old Jay, a trained paramedic and hospice volunteer who lived in New York. It also features his partner, Bonnie Marcus, who was with Jay during his final hours.
“A first responder, trained medical professional and hospice volunteer, Jay was a New York hero. He knew first-hand the importance and benefits of great palliative and hospice care. And although as a patient he received world-class palliative care, Jay’s medical team could not control the pain and suffering he endured at the end of his life,” said Corinne Carey, New York Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “A strong supporter of medical aid in dying even before his illness, Jay wanted his words – as he knew his brave fight was coming to an end – to resonate with lawmakers and the public. He wanted them to understand that there are limits to even the best palliative and hospice care, and that’s why New Yorkers should have the option to avail themselves of medical aid in dying.”
In a powerful plea to New York legislators, Jay Kallio said in the video: “I’m a strong advocate for palliative care and the quality of life it can bring to patients…but I also know that there are levels of pain it can’t control. I would like to have the legal right to end my life in a way that is merciful for me…doesn’t put my family through the horror of watching helplessly while I struggle and strain in pain as I die. I would ask you to look into your heart and try to see we who needs your mercy now to save us from a horrifying death.”
“The image of him in all that pain is very difficult to carry and I carry it. I am the witness to that,” Bonnie Rose Marcus, Jay’s partner, said in the video. “He was an extraordinary human being. He was a warrior. He didn’t deserve to die that way and nobody does….nobody does.”
A September 2015 poll of New Yorkers, commissioned by Compassion & Choices, found 77 percent support for allowing a terminally ill, mentally competent adult the option to request aid in dying medication.
If enacted, the Medical Aid in Dying Act (sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino [IDC-Staten Island] and Assemblymember Amy Paulin [D-Westchester] would allow New York to join six other states and the District of Columbia in providing mentally capable, terminally ill adults with the legal right to request a prescription to bring about a peaceful death should they choose to do so. Oregon, where aid in dying has been legal for two decades, has been joined by Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington, DC.
The video can be viewed here. More information about Compassion & Choices NY’s efforts to pass medical aid in dying is available here. New Yorkers can voice their support for medical aid in dying with state legislators here.