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New York State Assembly Health Committee Approves Medical Aid in Dying Act

On May 23rd the New York State Assembly Health Committee approved the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.10059/S.7579) by a 14-11 vote. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and a bipartisan group of Assemblymembers, including Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried (the bill is sponsored by Senator Diane Savino in the Senate). A full list of Assembly sponsors can be found here.  On May 10th EOLCNY staff and volunteers travelled to Albany and personally lobbied for passage of the bill.

David C. Leven, Executive Director of End of Life Choices New York thanked all the sponsors of the bill, saying “Our gratitude goes to Chairman Gottfried, Assemblywoman Paulin, the other sponsors of the bill, and the members of the Assembly Health Committee for this historic, first-ever approval of the Medical Aid in Dying Act, which would allow terminally ill, mentally competent, adult patients to self-administer prescribed medicines if their suffering becomes unbearable. It provides a compassionate way for dying patients to achieve a peaceful death of their choosing.

“The bill has numerous safeguards and protections for what has proven to be a rarely used but safe practice in several other states, including Oregon, where it has been the law for nearly two decades with no problems whatsoever.  However, knowing that aid in dying exists as a legal option provides peace of mind to thousands of terminally ill patients,” Leven said.

Assembly sponsor Amy Paulin said, “Moving the bill out of the Health Committee is a great step forward in our efforts to allow medical aid in dying in New York. I am very pleased that the committee members, under the leadership of the chair, Richard Gottfried, have enabled us to continue on the path to providing mentally competent, terminally ill adults the choice as to whether and when to end their own lives.  I look forward to engaging further in thoughtful dialogue with my colleagues so that we can enact into law this end of life option that 77% of New Yorkers support.”

“This bill is about patient autonomy and dignity,” Gottfried said.  “It meets all the moral and legal standards we look to in reviewing legislation in the Health Committee.  The law already allows adults with capacity to refuse life-saving treatment.  Similarly, they should have the right to end their suffering through medication if that is their own choosing.”

The next step is for the bill to be reviewed by the Assembly Codes Committee. Leven said, “While it is clearly unlikely the Medical Aid in Dying Act will be approved by the State Legislature before its session ends in June, we intend to push for its passage and continue to increase support among legislators as we educate them about this compassionate legislation that is strongly supported by a majority of New Yorkers.”

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