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It’s time to stop the suffering: New York must pass aid-in-dying

By admin | November 28, 2021

Amy Paulin

Special to the USA TODAY Network

The horrific suffering I witnessed my sister endure at the end of her life is something that will remain with me every day for the rest of my life. It was one of the reasons I decided to introduce the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act, which allows terminally ill adults with a confirmed prognosis of six months or less to live to take medication prescribed by a doctor to end their lives peacefully and with dignity. Just as I strongly support legislation that gives compassion and fairness in life, I support this bill which would give terminally ill people that same compassion and fairness when it comes to their death.

Medical aid in dying is currently legal in 10 states, including New Jersey. Even in these states, it’s only available in a narrow set of circumstances: you must be 18 or older, have an incurable and irreversible illness or disease, have a prognosis of six months or less to live confirmed by two doctors, be mentally capable, make the request both verbally and in writing, and be able to self-ingest the medication.

There is a quarter-century of history and data on medical aid in dying since the first law took effect in Oregon in 1997. We know from that data that very few dying patients request a prescription and about one-third of patients who request the prescription never take it. But we also know that for many of them, having the prescription — or just knowing it was available — provided them with the peace of mind they were seeking as they faced the end of life.

Since introducing this bill I’ve heard gut-wrenching stories from countless New Yorkers about how their loved ones were forced to endure horrible deaths. No one should be forced to needlessly suffer, or have to watch their child, parent, spouse, or sibling suffer as they die, wishing they could just close their eyes and pass away peacefully. New Yorkers should have an option and across-the-board overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying. A recent Marist College poll showed New York voters support medical aid in dying, 59-37 percent, with support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents, upstaters and downstaters, white New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color.

New York doctors overwhelmingly support the medical aid in dying bill. The New York Academy of Family Physicians said, “Supporting the authorization of medical aid in dying is commensurate with the Family Physician’s desire to empower our patients not only in their pursuit of wellness, their management of chronic disease, but also the alleviation of suffering when faced with a terminal illness.” The Medical Aid in Dying Act is also supported by the League of Women Voters of New York State, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York State Public Health Association, StateWide Senior Action Council, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, NOW-NY, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Harlem United, Latino Commission on AIDS, and the WESPAC Foundation, among many others.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act is supported by New York doctors and New Yorkers because it provides a compassionate and dignified option to those suffering horribly as they approach their inevitable death.

Now is the time. New Yorkers have endured enough suffering. I’m committed to working with my colleagues to pass this law in 2022 and give dying New Yorkers a compassionate end-of-life care option.

Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, is the prime sponsor of the Medical Aid in Dying Act in the New York State Assembly, along with over 50 co-sponsors.


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