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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. Group Urges Senators from States Where Medical Aid in Dying Is Authorized to Reject Gorsuch

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    Kevin Diaz, National Director of Legal Advocacy for Compassion & Choices

    Kevin Diaz, National Director of Legal Advocacy for Compassion & Choices

    Compassion & Choices today urged senators from the six states where medical aid in dying is authorized to vote to reject Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch because he failed to renounce his opposition to this end-of-life option during his confirmation hearings. The full Senate is expected to vote whether to confirm Judge Gorsuch by Friday after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination today by an 11-9 vote.

    Medical aid in dying is authorized in Judge Gorsuch’s home state of Colorado, California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. These seven jurisdictions represent 18 percent of the nation’s population.

    “We hoped Judge Gorsuch would testify he had reconsidered his opposition to medical aid in dying since he wrote his 2006 book on this issue, but he repeatedly made statements consistent with his book,” said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest end-of-life choice advocacy group, with 450,000 members nationwide. “Confirming Judge Gorsuch is too much of a risk for terminally ill adults in the six states where this option is authorized to peacefully end intolerable suffering. That’s why we urge these senators to represent their constituents by rejecting Judge Gorsuch to the nation’s highest court.”

    In 1997, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Glucksberg v. Washington encouraged states to engage in an “earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality and practicality of” medical aid in dying as an option to end suffering for mentally competent, terminally ill adults.

    Nevertheless, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, concluded in his 2006 book entitled, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: “.…the court’s decisions seem to assure that the debate…may have only begun…”

  2. Ray’s Story

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    Ray Perman already had his aid-in-dying medication in hand when he invited Compassion & Choices into his home in December 2016 to share the easy-to-understand process he followed to obtain the prescription and the great peace of mind it gave him just knowing it was there. He later took the medication surrounded by loved ones and died peacefully on February 4, 2017.

    When he reached out to our storytelling program, Ray told me he hoped that his lifelong passion for traveling and exploring would culminate in sharing the details of his final journey to inspire other terminally ill Californians who wanted to access this end-of-life care option. The son of a TWA pilot, Ray said that the explorer’s creed was guiding his approach to end of life:

    Ray Perman after undergoing chemo.

    Ray Perman after undergoing chemo.

    Thanks to hospice and this end-of-life option our culture is now on the immediate threshold of an entirely new last-phase of life — and I am one of the very grateful explorers. Fantastic!!! The message is that it is no longer the worst, and indeed may, or certainly should be, the best phase of life. Every glint of sunshine, a flower, every smile, every modest act of human kindness, all bursts through delivering remarkable joy. Every interaction with loved ones and friends carries 10 times the amount of emotional impact as before. Absolutely no one should miss this experience. No one should have — need have — their perceptions occluded out of fear. No one wants to die, but a peaceful and happy death is indeed an ecstatic death — not a fantasy. Dial-in, do art, work with kids, connect, do, love, everything! Is this bravura, denial, something else? My excellent hospice nurse doesn’t think so. Thus [The End of Life Option Act] supports my goals of retaining high function and then rapidly transitioning to the end.  

    I intend to report to C&C what I am experiencing on this path. Wish I could report to you from the “other side,” but darned, I’m not that good.

    As much as he wanted this story to help others, the day after we shot this interview, he wrote me this message:

    Your questions/process has brought about some amazing conversations and clarity with my family. I am the greatest beneficiary of everything you are doing with this story. Thank you so much. Onward through the cosmos … Ray.

    Here is Ray’s story in his own words:

    Read more:

    Ray’s friend writes to The Jewish News of Northern California about his gratitude for the California law.

    The Chicago Tribune writes about Ray, including Ray’s video.

  3. I’m glad my friend was able to make his own end-of-life decision

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    The following blog appeared on The Jewish News of Northern California

    A close friend passed away recently — no doubt among the first people to take advantage of California’s End of Life Option Act. Signed into law in 2015 and in effect as of June 9, 2016, the law gives terminally ill adults who have only six months to live the ability to request and obtain life-ending medication.

    My friend had a virulent form of prostate cancer. He lived with it for a few years, but when the tumors began to invade almost every part of his body, he entered hospice and requested the drugs. He wasn’t sure he would take them, but when the pain kept getting worse and it became obvious that the end was near, he made his decision. He died peacefully with his family at his side.

    Along with California, only Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, Colorado and Washington, D.C., support medical aid in dying. Now, with the recent tide of conservatism, opponents of medical aid in dying are moving quickly to attack the option.

    The law was challenged in Riverside in August, but a judge denied the request for an injunction filed by a group of anti-choice physicians. The Montana House of Representatives was considering a bill that would have allowed the state to execute doctors for prescribing end-of-life medication. The bill was narrowly defeated on March 1. The nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, wrote a book on how to defeat death-with-dignity bills, suggesting the option violates the Constitution.

    I have always been a strong advocate of death with dignity. I first became involved in this issue several years ago, when my mother found out she had ALS, a devastating neurological disease. She was 77, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, and knew what was in store. She asked me to help her.

    I spoke to her doctor, who said he might be able to “put her under” if her distress became unbearable. We left it at that, until hospice became involved. When I told them about the agreement, they said they could not support it and would now monitor the amount of morphine in the house.

    At a loss, I did research and found an organization called Compassion & Choices. They came to visit my mother and me, and told us what she could legally do to take control of her death in New York. She would have to acquire the appropriate life-ending medication, and take it while she was still functional. Like most patients in her situation, she was relieved to know what she could do, but ended up dying on her own.

    All religions take a stand on this issue. There is no question that Jewish law and tradition reject suicide, prohibit murder and accept pain and suffering as a part of life. The tradition is less clear when it comes to a person who is already dying of a terminal illness.

    The Talmud tells the story of the death of a great sage, Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi. The rabbi is suffering greatly but his students are praying with fervor in the courtyard to keep him alive. Out of compassion for his suffering, his maidservant drops a jar from the rooftop, stunning the students into silence, at which point the rabbi dies.

    This story has been used to justify the removal of life support, validating the patient’s right to a death with dignity, without pain and suffering. Judaism also usually considers palliative care an appropriate measure if someone is suffering at the end of life. But most Jewish traditions end there.

    If we allow caregivers to remove life support, and to provide palliative care, why can’t we give the terminally ill the tools for a peaceful death? The states that support the legislation have very strict safeguards in place, and patients must take the life-ending medications themselves, after they have been prescribed by a physician for that purpose.

    My friend found great comfort knowing he had the life-ending medication, even if he wasn’t sure he would take it. He told me it freed him from anxiety, so he could spend his last days focusing on what meant most to him — being with his family and his friends.

  4. A Call To The Palliative Care Community For A Patient-Centered Response To Medical Aid In Dying

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    The following article appeared on the Health Affairs Blog

    During the past 20 years, the end-of-life care community has devoted its energy, resources, and time into developing the medical sub-specialty of palliative medicine and promoting integration of palliative modalities into treatment of advanced illness. Progress continues toward twin goals of providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness and improving the quality of life for both patient and family. As the leading resource for palliative care development and growth, the Center to Advance Palliative Care notes that, “Palliative care sees the person beyond the disease. It represents a paradigm shift in health care delivery.”

    Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most active nonprofit organization committed to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life. We have long recognized that adult, terminally ill individuals have a fundamental right to determine their own medical treatment options as they near the end of life. We routinely hear from people who praise their palliative care team for the support either they or a loved one received during a serious illness.

    However, we also quite regularly hear from consumers who do not understand why their palliative care team does not disclose or discuss medical aid in dying as a palliative care option for mentally sound, terminally ill adults in the states where it is authorized. After all, many palliative care teams pride themselves on helping patients and families understand the nature of their illness, making timely, informed decisions about their care and feel in control of their lives. Medical aid in dying—one option on the palliative care spectrum—represents these values to patients and their families, so they do not understand why some palliative care specialists refuse to acknowledge or recognize it.

    Medical aid in dying refers to a practice in which mentally capable, terminally ill adults with a prognosis of six months or less may request medication from their doctor for self-administration to bring about a peaceful death if suffering becomes unbearable. The practice is currently authorized either through statute or court decision in six states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, and Colorado. Bills to authorize the practice are also being considered in more than 20 states during the 2017 legislative session.

    In November, the Annals of Internal Medicine published an article by John Frye, MA and Stuart J. Youngner, MD, titled: “A Call for a Patient-Centered Response to Legalized Assisted Dying.” They challenged medical organizations to develop policies of “engaged neutrality” on medical aid in dying. A position of engaged neutrality indicates that it is a professional organization’s obligation to provide its members with the clinical guidelines, information, and tools they need if they choose to support their patients’ requests for medical aid in dying.

    Here, we offer data and evidence for medical organizations to consider as they explore adopting a position of engaged neutrality. We also reach out to the palliative care community in the hope that, upon renewed reflection, its members will recognize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option that should be integrated into the palliative care spectrum in response to growing consumer demand and impending authorization in states across the nation.

    Medical Aid In Dying Is About How Somebody Wants To Live Their Life

    Like palliative care, medical aid in dying helps patients focus on quality of life by easing their greatest fear: they will experience unbearable suffering during the last months, weeks, or days of life. It is not only about how a person dies, it’s about how one lives during the last stage of a terminal illness. It seems that some skeptics consider only the palliative implications of terminally ill individuals ingesting aid-in-dying medication. They do not recognize the enormous palliative impact on quality of life that occurs when the terminally ill individual obtains the medication, whether or not that person ultimately decides to take it. In fact, more than one-third of Oregonians who obtain the medication do not ingest it, but they get peace of mind knowing they have it if they need it. People also find reassurance and comfort in discussing medical aid in dying as an end-of-life option with their family and physician, even if they do not pursue getting the medication.

    According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, palliative care physicians in Oregon report that a patient’s questions about medical aid in dying prompt in-depth conversations between doctors and patients about the full-range of end-of-life care options, including hospice, pain management, and emotional support in addition to medical aid in dying. Numerous studies in Oregon and Washington, along with a host of national surveys, link the availability of medical aid in dying as a palliative care option to a number of positive outcomes for end-of-life care.

    A study of hospice nurses and social workers in Oregon reported that symptoms of pain, depression, anxiety, extreme air hunger, and fear of the process of dying were more pronounced among hospice patients who did not request aid-in-dying medication, indicating a strong palliative care benefit for having an aid-in-dying prescription on hand whether or not the prescription ever gets filled. University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics Director Arthur Caplan has said, “… the Oregon law probably has benefited many more people than have actually used it.”

    Medical Aid In Dying Benefits Even People Who Do Not Choose To Use This Option

    As is noted above, the mere knowledge that this end-of-life option is available to a terminally ill patient has a palliative effect and improves quality of life. The policy does not benefit only the very small percentage of people who actually choose this option; the policy benefits the many people who have a terminal illness who find comfort in knowing this option is available to them if they need it. Furthermore, medical aid in dying represents the shift in the balance of power from the medical system to the patient. When health systems and entities choose to adopt supportive policies, they are recognizing patients’ role in making decisions about their health care, which transforms how care is delivered throughout the care continuum.

    Medical Aid In Dying Improves Hospice

    The evidence suggests that medical aid in dying actually improves hospice care. Oregon has long been recognized as a leader in end-of-life care. However, the improvements since Oregon’s Death with Dignity law took effect were so notable that the authors of a 2015 Journal of Palliative Medicine study on hospice usage patterns suggested the law may have contributed to more open conversations between doctors and patients about end-of-life options, higher hospice usage rates, lower rates of hospice misuse, and better palliative care training of physicians.

    Medical Aid In Dying Brings Families Together

    Medical aid in dying helps family caregivers prepare for and accept a terminally ill person’s imminent death. The previously cited study of hospice nurses and social workers in Oregon reported that family caregivers of patients who chose medical aid in dying “were more likely to find positive meaning in caring for the patient and were more prepared for and accepting of the patient’s death” than family caregivers of patients who did not request medical aid in dying. A mental health survey of 95 Oregonian families whose loved ones chose medical aid in dying after exhausting other palliative care options yielded similar results.

    Medical Aid In Dying Could Improve The Image And Acceptance Of Palliative Care

    For decades, palliative care professionals have expressed concern about associating their practice with medical aid in dying because they believed it could damage their image. According to a 2011 Public Opinion Research Survey on Palliative Care, nearly eight out of 10 Americans “don’t know” or are “not at all knowledgeable” about palliative care. In contrast, according to nearly 50 different surveys, the issue of medical aid in dying is well known and popular among the American public, regardless of what polling company conducts the survey and how the question is asked.

    In a recent Lifeway online survey, two-thirds of Americans said it was “morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives.” Majority support spanned a variety of demographic groups, including Christians (59 percent), Catholics (70 percent), Protestants (53 percent), those of other religions (70 percent) and those who identify as nonreligious (84 percent), White Americans (71 percent), and Hispanic Americans (69 percent). In addition, more than half of black, non-Hispanics (53 percent) agreed that: “Physicians should be allowed to assist terminally ill patients in ending their life.”

    The November 8, 2016 successful ballot initiative to authorize medical aid in dying in Colorado garnered more “yes” votes than any other measure on the state’s ballot, including those targeting the minimum wage, cigarette taxes, and universal health care. Nearly two of every three voters (64.8 percent) supported it, with majority support across virtually every demographic group regardless of religion, party line, or race. The ballot measure received more votes than any candidate or issue on the ballot in Colorado. Medical aid in dying is no longer an issue that people run away from. It is a popular option that people want because it represents autonomy, control, and self-determination: the same core values that shaped palliative care.

    Medical Aid In Dying: Respecting Patient’s Values

    The data from 30 combined years of experience where medical aid in dying is authorized is conclusive. This medical practice benefits many and harms nothing: not palliative care, the physician/patient relationship, families, or society. Failing to recognize medical aid in dying as a part of the palliative care spectrum is a failure to respect the goals, perspectives, and values of patients who get peace of mind and comfort from this option. Proponents of medical aid in dying share a vision with the palliative care community of reducing non-beneficial treatment that only causes pain and suffering and degrades quality of life. Consumers are driving the change — demanding truly patient-centered care. But to harness their power and deliver on their promise, the palliative care community and medical establishment must embrace patients’ desires for self-determination and autonomy. It requires recognizing and supporting medical aid in dying as a legitimate medical option for dying patients.

  5. People en Español Remembers Miguel Carrasquillo

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    People en Español published a beautiful two-page spread about Compassion & Choices volunteer advocate Miguel Carrasquillo, highlighting the fact that 69 percent of Latinos now support medical aid in dying since Miguel’s agonizing death last year, as well as our Latino efforts in New York and across the nation. The story also notes the support for medical aid in dying by Mexican actor Mauricio Ochmann, who recorded PSAs for Compassion & Choices.

    Click here to download the story.

  6. Sen. Chris Eaton and Rep. Mike Freiberg Introduce End-of-Life Option Act for 2017

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    Compassion & Choices welcomed the introduction of the End-of-Life Option Act for 2017 (SF 1572), a bill to give Minnesotans the option to make end-of-life healthcare decisions that are right for them in the final stages of a terminal illness.

    Joining bill sponsors Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL – Brooklyn Center) and Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL – Hopkins) to announce the bill during a news conference at the State’s Capitol were Karen Warren, a Minneapolis resident living with terminal Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), Bobbi Jacobsen, a Richfield resident living with ALS, and Sally Settle, an Apple Valley resident whose mother died from leukemia before being able to access medical aid in dying.

    If enacted, the End-of-Life Option Act would allow Minnesota to join seven other jurisdictions in authorizing terminally ill adults of sound mind to request and receive a prescription they may self-administer to bring about a peaceful death. Oregon, where aid in dying has been legal for two decades, has been joined by Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado and most recently, the District of Columbia.

    “Minnesotans overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying. While most will never choose medical aid in dying, they want the option because it provides comfort to those facing pain and suffering at the end of life,” said Rebecca Thoman, M.D. Campaign Manager for Doctors for Dignity. “By introducing the End-of-Life Option Act, the bill authors have shown a commitment to improving end of life care for all Minnesotans.”

    “My mother died in pain, in the hospital, just as she knew she would, but didn’t want to,” said Sally Settle. “She was desperate to avoid the misery that she faced. If we had lived in Oregon, she could have used its Death with Dignity law and enjoyed her final days knowing she could decide when enough was enough. But here in Minnesota, she had no safe, legal option for a peaceful way to end the suffering. I promised my mother before she died that I would work to change the law in Minnesota. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue for Minnesotans. Lawmakers need to come together out of respect for terminally ill Minnesotans and their families.”

    Bobbi Jacobsen stated: “As a person living with a disability, I’ve gained great respect for the pioneers who fought for the Americans with Disabilities Act. But unlike others living with a disability, mine is fatal. Eventually, I will lose my ability to live without being attached to a machine that will breathe for me, but my thinking will be sharp and my senses intact. Not allowing people like me a peaceful alternative is wrong. The movement to authorize aid in dying is based on the same principles that inform the disability rights movement: respect, dignity and autonomy. Only I can determine the quality of my life. Only I can define what dignity means to me.”

    A survey among likely voters conducted in September 2016 showed broad and deep support for medical aid in dying. Seventy-three percent of Minnesotans believe medical aid in dying should be a legal option for terminally ill individuals who are over the age of 18, have less than six months to live and are deemed mentally capable by medical experts. A 2016 Minnesota State Fair Survey showed similar findings, with 68% in support.

  7. District of Columbia Becomes 7th Jurisdiction to Authorize Medical Aid in Dying

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    The District of Columbia’s medical aid-in-dying bill, the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, will take effect tomorrow, Sat., Feb. 18, because opponents failed to get the support necessary in Congress to stop the bill from becoming law.

    The Death with Dignity Act was transmitted by the D.C. Council to the House and Senate on Jan. 6 for a 30-legislative-day review period under the Home Rule Act. H.J. Res 27, which would have overturned the D.C. Death with Dignity Act, stalled without a floor vote today in either house.

    Though Congress could still vote to overturn the law or try to defund it, overriding D.C.’s laws becomes more difficult after they go into effect. Following is a statement from Jessica Grennan, national director of political affairs and advocacy for Compassion & Choices, the end-of-life choice advocacy organization that helped pass the law:

    “Today we are celebrating that the District of Columbia has become the 7th jurisdiction to authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill people. The advocacy of D.C. residents and local officials is what won this victory. Democracy conquered the personal mindsets of paternalistic politicians whose opinions should not get in the way of people getting the medical relief they want and need.

    “We will continue to monitor Congress for attacks on D.C. or any of the six other states where medical aid-in-dying is authorized: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. And while it is true that opponents want to defund and overturn the law, no funding is required for the law to go into effect. Terminally ill patients can now legally get medical aid in dying in the District of Columbia. Doctors may now prescribe appropriate medications under the law without fear of prosecution. We urge anyone who is eligible and considering this option to make the request of their doctor right away, since we cannot predict whether or when this right may be stripped away by Congress.”

  8. Modern Death: A Literary Event with Dr. Haider Warraich

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    The neurologist was “concise in his description: ‘The man is dead.’ -’What do you mean?’ -”He is brain dead.’ In spite of what the neurologist said, we were not yet able to diagnose brain death in this patient, but I was delegated to go to the patient’s bedside. I walked into the room, and he lay on the bed, chest rising rhythmically with the ventilator, heart beating regularly with a crisp rhythm on the monitor. His cheeks were flush with color. He looked like many other patients sedated on ventilators in the ICU–perhaps better, because he was younger and had not seen a day in the hospital prior to this. But there was one difference: Though he didn’t look it, he was deader. I had seen a lot of dead people. None of them looked anything like him. His girlfriend anxiously asked me, ‘Is he dead?’ Her question really came out of nowhere and caught me by surprise. In medical school, and during residency, we are taught to diagnose disease, but never to diagnose life, or the lack thereof. The last fifty or so years have seen the very fact of death being decoded, defined, and subsequently decried and perhaps debunked. I was still processing all the information in front of me. During the course of my residency, I had pronounced the deaths of countless patients. I had been told that this man had died, but I had none of the tools I needed to confirm the fact. His heart was beating, his wrist pulsating; I looked at his girlfriend and said, ‘I don’t know.’”

    Dr. Haider Warraich read the preceding passage from his newly-released book, Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life at a February 8 event co-sponsored by Compassion & Choices New York at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, New York City.

    The venue, a premier literary destination for acclaimed authors, is also a part of the Housing Works network, which defines itself as a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. The mission of the organization is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts. 100% of the profits from sales at the Bookstore to to Housing Works.

    Warraich read to an audience of nearly forty gathered at the Bookstore to hear from the frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal. The discussion after the reading was rich, and focused on changes in medicine that often lead to prolonging life beyond the wishes of individual patients, and whether our laws need to adapt to accommodate the changing landscape of medicine.

    Though he described himself as an early opponent of aid in dying, owing to his training and mentorship from physicians who had long-standing positions against the practice, while he was writing the book, Warraich remarked, he came to understand how important the option could be for his patients:

    “In the course of writing this book,” Warraich wrote in Modern Death, “I have learned many things about myself. Most surprising is to realize that, knowing what I know now, I have come to the conclusion that we must do more to discuss and support competent terminally ill patients’ right to demand and acquire the means to end their suffering with the aid of a physician.”

    New York campaign director for Compassion & Choices Corinne Carey joined Dr. Warraich on stage in the latter portion of the event to talk about the state campaign to authorize medical aid in dying. The venue, Carey explained, holds special meaning for this work: “Housing Works was at the epicenter of the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York,” she said. “Many of those who supported friends and loved ones who died know what it means to watch someone suffer and not be able to help. That’s why it’s such an honor to be here tonite, and to count Housing Works as one of our strongest supporters of the legislation.”

  9. Medical Aid in Dying is a Christian Option to Stop End-of-Life Suffering

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    Father Luis Barrios, pastor of Episcopal Santa Cruz and professor at John Jay University

    Father Luis Barrios, pastor of Episcopal Santa Cruz and professor at John Jay University

    I don’t have a problem with the notion of death, because death is a part of life. It’s how we face it and the way we go through the dying process that makes a difference.

    It’s a blessing that the New York State Legislature is considering a bill to authorize medical aid in dying. Terminally ill, mentally competent adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live should have the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable. And on February 14, I will join other faith leaders at the State Capitol in Albany for a interfaith prayer of love and compassion for terminally ill New Yorkers.

    Unfortunately, there are a handful of powerful opponents that would keep this option from the vast majority of New Yorkers who want it.

    As a priest, I have been blessed to counsel many New Yorkers as they prepare for the end of their lives. I sat at their bedside as they begged for help to die. It is the memory of these people that has helped me to lend my voice today to help authorize the medical practice of aid in dying.

    There was something sacred about ministering to the dying who begged for relief. Little did I know these experiences prepared me for the day my brother Samuel, in light of his weakened and final stages of AIDS, told he me wanted me to help him die peacefully.

    End-of-life care options

    Medical aid in dying has been making headlines among Latinos in New York because of the advocacy of recently deceased Miguel Carrasquillo and the new support for this end-of-life care option by Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez.

    Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in six states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, and Colorado. In addition, Congress is reviewing a bill the D.C. Council approved to authorize this end-of-life care option.

    Miguel’s horrific suffering from terminal brain cancer prompted him to record videos in English and in Spanish to urge legislators across the country to pass medial aid-in-dying laws, including in his former home states of New York and Illinois, and native Puerto Rico. Miguel also recorded this cell phone video on May 25, just 10 days before his agonizing death on June 5, 2016 (Spanish version of video).

    Seven months have passed since Miguel, a Catholic, died at the young age of 35. But his death is already making a difference among the Latino community he fought for until his last breath.

    In fact, 69% of Hispanics nationwide support medical aid in dying, according to a new survey conducted by LifeWay Research.  Most religious group members who participated in the survey also said medical aid in dying is “morally acceptable,” including: 70% of Catholics; 59% of all Christians; 53% of Protestants; 70% of people in other religions and 84% of those who identified as non-religious.  

    I recently met Miguel’s mom, Nilsa Centeno, when we joined Compassion & Choices to launch a bilingual campaign in New York in November to educate state residents about the bipartisan medical aid-in-dying bill. We spoke about her son’s last wishes of Latinos to embrace the option of medical aid in dying to prevent the unbearable suffering that he experienced because it was not available to him in his native Puerto Rico. His suffering reminded me of my brother’s painful death.

    End of life options

    Of course, this end-of-life care option may not be for everyone. Many good people of faith have different opinions about what decisions are right for them in the final stages of a terminal illness.

    There are many ways to encounter God, and New Yorkers hold a wide array of spiritual beliefs and traditions.

    My God is a God of love and compassion. A God who would not abandon a dying person who is suffering, and refuse that person the means to die peacefully. I believe that our state should adopt a law that would allow terminally ill New Yorkers to die without suffering, in whatever way is consistent with their own individual faith, values, and beliefs.

    Father Luis Barrios, is a pastor at Iglesia Episcopal Santa Cruz/Holyrood Episcopal Church and professor at John Jay College in New York.