On April 16 at the New York State Capitol in Albany, representatives from Death with Dignity National Center, Compassion & Choices New York, Death with Dignity-Albany, and End of Life Choices New York announced the formation of the New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying. This new coalition will work to build support among legislators and New York residents for the Medical Aid in Dying Act currently under consideration by the state Assembly.
Alliance members will participate in a Lobby Day and an official hearing on the bill at the Statehouse on April 23. Death with Dignity Executive Director Peg Sandeen will provide expert testimony at the hearing.
Strength in Numbers
George Eighmey (pictured), our Board president, has been deeply involved in the Death with Dignity movement for decades. As an Oregon State Legislator in the 1990s, he worked to pass and defend the groundbreaking Oregon Death with Dignity Act. After he left office in 1997, he led efforts to implement the new law. As a member of our board, he has worked tirelessly with legislators and advocates to pass assisted-dying laws in Vermont and California.
In his remarks at the alliance launch yesterday, Eighmey emphasized the importance of collaboration in achieving victories in states across the country.
“In every state where a law has passed, it has been the combined effort of local organizations primarily with national organizations to get [it] passed,” Eighmey said.
Also present at yesterday’s announcement were the bill sponsors, New York State Senators Diane Savino (D-N Staten Island/S Brooklyn) and Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), and the Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Richard Gottfried.
Dignity and Humanity
Savino, who has co-sponsored multiple assisted-dying bills since 2015, once again expressed her strong support for death with dignity.
“There is no legislation more important than this Act” in the current legislative session, Savino said. Terminally ill New Yorkers “want to be able to decide how they exit this world. They want some control over what [happens] to them in their final moments, so they can say goodbye with humanity and compassion and dignity.”
Modeled closely on existing assisted-dying statutes, the Medical Aid in Dying Act contains numerous safeguards to protect patients who seek to use the law to hasten their death.
“To speak with one voice”
Speaking with us earlier this month, Laurie Leonard, executive director of End of Life Choices New York, expressed excitement about the alliance’s efforts.
“It’s great to be working together,” Leonard said. “We all have the same goal, we’re all speaking the same language.”
Death with Dignity-Albany executive director Bonnie Edelstein said, “We are very pleased to be a partner in this dynamic alliance, with the four organizations coming together to speak with one voice in support of medical aid in dying. Together, we represent thousands of New Yorkers across the state who want the right to make their own end-of-life decisions and to have a peaceful and humane death.”
As happened after California’s passage of the End of Life Option Act in 2015, the adoption of an assisted dying statute in New York would give the nationwide Death with Dignity movement increased momentum and legitimacy. And nearly 20 million Americans would gain access to an essential end-of-life option.
We stand ready to work side by side with these groups and New York’s Legislature to craft a law that ensures patients in New York are in control of this process and make their own decisions every step of the way—as is their right.