CNY Advocates Demand Legislature Pass Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023, as Compassion & Choices Continues Statewide Campaign
“Few will use it, but everybody should have the option to avoid needless suffering.”
Dec 6, 2022 Myra Shulman
Compassion & Choices Senior New York Campaign Director Corinne Carey said that the campaign to make New York the 11th state to authorize medical aid in dying has been a huge success, energizing supporters and advocates. Carey and advocates participated in a Syracuse news conference today – the fourth leg of a two-month, statewide grassroots campaign to demand that the State Legislature pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023.
Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live to request a prescription from their doctor for medication they can take when their suffering becomes too great to bear and die peacefully. Ten states, including New York neighbors New Jersey and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C., authorize medical aid in dying. A recent Marist poll shows strong support for medical aid in dying among New York state voters, 59-36 percent, including majority support across the geographic, political and racial spectrum.
Carey said: “We need the Legislature to catch up to the public. New Yorkers strongly support providing an option for medical aid in dying to ease suffering for those who are terminally ill and will soon die – often in pain, despite the best efforts of hospice and palliative care. While support in the Legislature has grown over the last several years, we are intensifying our campaign to make 2023 the year lawmakers stop turning their backs on New Yorkers suffering at the end of life.”
Barbara Thomas, longtime leader in the New York State League of Women Voters, from Saratoga Springs, recounted the suffering of her husband, Bob, who died from brain cancer. “Bob and I were together for 55 years. He was my best friend. Bob was not suicidal. He wanted to live, but his cancer chose to end his life. All he was asking for was assistance in ending his suffering when he couldn’t take it anymore. At one point, he asked me to get his pistol (which was locked in a gun cabinet up a flight of stairs he could no longer climb). I didn’t, couldn’t, do it. When he died, I vowed to myself I didn’t want anyone else I love to suffer like that. And I don’t want to suffer that way either. Few will use medical aid in dying, but everybody should have the option to avoid needless suffering.”
Ithaca resident Myra Shulman described how her mother, Beverly Shulman, used California’s medical aid-in-dying law in 2017 at age 89 to peacefully end her suffering from incurable metastatic colon cancer: “After the diagnosis, mom had surgery to remove the tumor in her colon, which gave her quality time that she used traveling and visiting friends and family. Inevitably, the cancer returned, the tumors grew and mom was often in pain and fatigued, despite hospice and palliative care. Mom had a wonderful medical team and when she received the prescription she requested for aid in dying medication, she didn’t take it for two weeks. When the time came, she lay on her own bed, in her own home, with her daughters at her side. It was such a peaceful, gentle, truly beautiful way to end a life.”
Last month, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a column from Raymond Stark of Tupper Lake. An 86-year-old Veteran now in hospice care and a lifelong Republican, Mr. Stark wrote, “Now I’m 86 and I’m dying. I strongly believe I should have the ability to decide what the end of my life looks like. It’s not for someone else to tell me I have to stay in this bed waiting around for the next heart attack. I want to go quickly and painlessly.”
“If Mr. Stark lived in Vermont – a few dozen miles from where he’s in a hospice bed – he would be eligible for medical aid in dying, an option he desperately wants. It’s because of Raymond Stark and the memory of Bob Thomas and so many other brave New Yorkers that we will not stop until the Legislature passes the Medical Aid in Dying Act and Governor Hochul signs it into law,” Carey said.
The Medical Aid in Dying Act is supported by numerous advocacy groups in the state including, among others: the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, New York Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters of New York State, StateWide Senior Action Council, NYS Public Health Association, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, NOW-NY, ACT UP NY, Harlem United, Latino Commission on AIDS, Latinos for Healthcare Equity, the WESPAC Foundation, and SAGE NY, which advocates for and provides healthcare and other services to LGBT elders. You can see many memos in support from these and other organizations here.