The Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Health Network announced today that they are joining Compassion & Choices in the campaign to pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.3151/A.2383) as quickly as possible. The bill would give terminally ill New Yorkers the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable.
“This endorsement by the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Health Network is a huge boost to our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill New Yorkers to end unbearable suffering,” said Kim Callinan, Chief Executive Officer, Compassion & Choices. “We still have much work to do to move the bill forward and I am delighted we will be doing it together.”
“The reality is that no matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the cycle of life and death,” said Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of the Hispanic Health Network. “My belief is that if the time comes when we can’t bear the suffering that afflicted Miguel and so many of my friends who died of cancer, or AIDS, a merciful God will understand that we all should have the option to die peacefully.”
Supporters from different cultures and faiths gathered on the steps of New York City Hall with a prayer led by Father Luis Barrios, Ph.D, a pastor at Holyrood Episcopal Church in upper Manhattan, and a Latino psychology professor of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in midtown Manhattan. Father Barrios has counseled and prayed with people living and dying of AIDS as they prepared for the end of their lives. One of those people was his brother Samuel, who in his weakened state in the final stages of AIDS, told him that he wanted help to die peacefully.
“I sat at their bedside as they begged for help to die,” Father Barrios said. “The memory of my brother Samuel, Miguel and other Latinos that I’ve counseled at life’s end has helped me to lend my voice today to support the campaign to authorize the medical practice of aid in dying.”
The support of the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Health Network comes just a few months after the National Hispanic Council on Aging(NHCOA) officially endorsed the medical practice of aid in dying.
Nilsa Centeno held back tears as she spoke of her only son, Miguel Carrasquillo, a former New Yorker whose horrific suffering from brain cancer prompted him to record bilingual interviews in English and in Spanish for Compassion & Choices urging lawmakers nationwide to approve this end of life option. Miguel died in 2016 in his native Puerto Rico. He was only 35-years-old.
“I have found solace in the promise I made to my only son, Miguel, during his last days,” Centeno said. “I promised him that I would fight to make medical aid in dying an option for terminally ill people, so they would not have to suffer in agony at the end of life like he did.”
“I have spent hours comforting the dying and their families, and while heartbreaking it is also often heartwarming,” said Rev. Valerie Ross, a pastor at Judson Memorial Church, a Baptist church in lower Manhattan. “Making more compassionate laws around dying helps everybody. It gives us the comfort we need from our society and our governments.”
Compassion & Choices New York State campaign organizer Amanda Cavanaugh broke down in tears as she recalled the death of her fiance, Chrissy, who died in agony at age 29 from liver cancer on February 15, 2015.
“Medications could not alleviate her pain,” she said. “Chrissy’s parents and I watched their only child suffer horribly and there was nothing we could do about it. It wasn’t the death Chrissy wanted nor that she deserved.”
More than three of four New York voters (77%) support medical aid in dying, according to a 2015 Eagle Point Strategies poll. The 2015 poll showed that majority support spans every demographic group measured, including religious affiliation, education level, political party, gender, age, and region of the state.
In addition to the new endorsement of the Medical Aid in Dying Act by the Latino Commission on AIDS and Hispanic Health Network, the following state health groups previously endorsed the bill: the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, the New York State Public Health Association, and Rochester Breast Cancer Coalition.