Sara Myers was the lead plaintiff in Myers v. Schneiderman, our case seeking to establish aid in dying as a right in New York. She died on August 16th, at the age of 61.
Our Clinical Director Judith Schwarz says, “Sara was determined to stay alive to see the end of this important legal case that, if won, would have afforded her the option of medical support in controlling the timing of her death. For years, she had managed the symptoms of her ALS disease with that goal in mind, but also wanted to retain independence and dignity in her final months. Her body gave out, but not her will and determination. She was surrounded by wonderful friends and family who she had known since her college days, and she was helped by several amazing aides. While she did end up requiring institutional hospice care for the final days of her life , her friends went with her, and will remember always her indomitable spirit and eloquence. It was my privilege to know her, and to help a bit, in keeping her comfortable in those final months.”
Ed Schallert, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton and co-counsel in Myers said: “I was so sorry to hear that Sara had died. I was so impressed with Sara’s determination and grace in dealing with this litigation. My only hope is that a case with her name can lead to change.”
Kathryn Tucker, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Legal Center and co-counsel in Myers commented: “The most we can do for Sara now is to see her name on the case that establishes the right of terminally ill New Yorkers to be empowered with the autonomy to choose a more peaceful death when confronted by suffering they find unbearable. It would be a great legacy for her. We will redouble our efforts to see this happen.”
Here are Sara’s own words, from a statement she made a year and a half ago:
“Four years ago I was diagnosed with ALS, a terminal disease which is paralyzing my entire body, piece by piece, while my emotional and intellectual capacities remain intact. Eventually, this disease will rob me of my ability to breathe,” said patient plaintiff Sara Myers, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “There is no medicine to stop or even slow the progression of this disease.It’s unclear how much time I have left before I’m unable to breathe anymore. If I choose, I can be kept alive artificially, completely reliant on a mechanical device for breathing, and a feeding tube for nutrition. But, more important than the choices to prolong my life with this horrible disease, is the right to choose how to die with it.”
“I am determined to take what steps I can to die with dignity, and to have some choice and control over my final weeks, days and hours. I want every day to matter. I want to live my life being aware, able to love, and to be loved consciously,” Myers said.
“When the time comes, I want to be able to gather my loved ones around me and bid them good-bye while I am of clear mind and able to share those final moments,” Myers said.”When the pain and suffering of the disease strips away the good parts of my life that I can still enjoy, and my life becomes intolerable, I want the choice to ask my doctor to aid me in my dying.I am suing the State of New York to remove the legal barrier between my doctor and myself to help me achieve a peaceful and dignified death, at the time and place of my choosing.”