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A Dialogue About New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act

I am pleased to report on the very successful webinar, “A Dialogue About New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act”. End of Life Choices New York (EOLCNY) initiated and then hosted this program with the New York Academy of Medicine on October 28, which 90 people attended.  EOLCNY Executive Director Ayana Woods moderated the webinar and I gave “An Overview and History of Medical Aid in Dying”.

Speakers included, Assembly Member Karines Reyes, who spoke about the “Medical Aid in Dying Act” and  David Muller, MD, Dean for Medical Education at Mount Sinai Hospital , who spoke on “Why Medical Aid in Dying Should be an End of Life Option”. Lydia Dugdale, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Irvine Medical Center spoke on “Why Medical Aid in Dying Should Not be an End of Life Option” and Mary Ellen Tresgallo, DNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Anesthesiology, Columbia University School of Nursing spoke about  “A Nursing Perspective”. Closing remarks were given by Allison Squires, PhD, RN, Chair NYAM, Section on Nursing. 

I conveyed factual information about how medical aid in dying has worked as intended in the nine states and DC, where it is now authorized, without any problems emerging as expected by opponents. Dr. Muller spoke about how important medical aid in dying is as an option for dying, suffering patients and why this should be a choice that they should be able to make. Many points raised by opponents focused on concerns, once understandable, before there was any history of medical aid in dying. Now, 70 years of cumulative evidence from states where medical aid in dying is legal have demonstrated that those concerns no longer have validity, and these arguments were therefore refuted. 

For example, I believe Dr. Dugdale mentioned a case to purportedly illustrate that an insurance company refused to pay for a treatment but would pay for a medical aid in dying prescription. Barbara Wagner had end-stage lung cancer, and the Oregon Medicaid program paid for chemotherapy and radiation throughout its course. By 2008, she had exhausted all effective treatments. The Oregon Medicaid program declined to pay for what studies showed was an ineffective cancer treatment (Tarceva) prescribed by her doctor with practically no chance to extend her life. Instead, her insurance company offered to pay for pain management, medical equipment, hospice care and all other prescriptions, including medical aid in dying. The ineffectiveness of the medication for this cancer, not its cost, triggered that decision. This example cited by opponents can be responded to with facts showing that there was no problem caused by medical aid in dying.  There have been no court or administrative decisions finding serious errors or abuse or coercion. Given all of the safeguards and protections in the Medical Aid in Dying Act, A. 2694, S.3947, such cases will probably be exceedingly rare.     

Following the webinar, we were informed by the New York Academy of Medicine that “Based on early feedback, this was one of the best and most meaningful NYAM events in years”. 

Click here to watch a recording of the event (it begins at 42 seconds). The link will be active only until this Friday, November 6, but you may download the file if you wish to save it.

Thanks,

David C. Leven                                                                                      
Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Consultant 


Upcoming events:

Special Virtual Screening and Q&A: A Spirit in Flight
November 6th at 6pm on Zoom (Free). Register here.

This screening will be hosted by End of Life Choices New York and Wheel New Yorkers. Wheel New Yorkers is by and for wheelchair users connected to New York City; the three aims are to smash stereotypes,  create connections, and push change. A Spirit in Flight is an intimate portrait of Eric Jurado Diaz as he faces the challenge of his life, an ALS diagnosis. Unexpectedly humorous, poignant and thought-provoking in equal measure, this short film promises to inspire and enlighten. The film will be followed by a live moderated Q&A with the writer / director David Gaynes and special guest Eric Jurado Diaz. 24 hours before the event start time attendees will receive a private link to watch the film (run time: 13 min) AND a link to access the Q&A hosted by Zoom.

Get Involved:

Massachusetts Needs Your Help 

Our allies in Massachusetts have asked us to urge you to contact (asap) anyone you know in their state, and encourage them to contact their legislators to support passage of “The End of Life Options Act” by Dec. 31. It was already passed on May 29 by the Joint Committee on Public Health. Massachusetts is now the only state in the country with an active bill still being considered by a Legislature this year. It would be a great boost to other states’ efforts next year (like New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Maryland) to have Massachusetts pass it this year! For more information go to  www.westernmassachusettsdeathwithdignity.org

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