Advocates to push for medical aid in dying legislation in Albany

Nov 20, 2015

Should terminally ill patients in New York be allowed to medically end their own lives? That question was discussed Friday at the University at Buffalo Law School.

Medical aid-in-dying laws are currently on the books in five states and advocates want to see that number grow. The provisions allow those who are suffering from unbearable pain to request life-ending medication from their doctors, which they can then choose to self-administer when the time comes.

Brittany Maynard's story has inspired many to take up the cause of medical aid-in-dying legislation.

Corinne Carey is leading the effort to get an aid in dying bill passed in the New York Legislature.  Carey, who directs the state Compassion & Choices campaign, says polls show the public strongly supports legalizing medical aid in dying, with 77% in favor of the option.

"The numbers remain constant when you look at upstate and downstate voters, when you look at voters across religious and party affiliations. We found very few differences. Support for medical aid in dying is really tremendous here in New York State," Carey told WBFO.

Carey says more than 1,300 people have requested the medication in Oregon over the last 17 years, but about one-third of them ultimately decided not to take it.

"We find that really is a demonstration of patient autonomy. Patients and their families report feeling comforted by the fact that this is an option, but not everyone avails themselves of the option, even after they request the medication," she said.

According to Carey, many people have been inspired by the story of Brittany Maynard, a young woman with terminal cancer who moved to Oregon to access life-ending medication.

"Her story inspired millions of people. My own organization had over 500,000 people contacting us after her story became public asking how they can help make this a reality across the country," Carey said.

Carey says there will be a strong push to get a bill passed in the upcoming legislative session. She says she hopes lawmakers will take up the issue when they reconvene in Albany after the new year.