Our main goal as Lower Hudson Valley Compassion & Choices volunteers is to show support for aid-in-dying legislation in New York State by talking about it with friends, family, doctors, clergy, and legislators, making our support and advocacy known. There are many other ways to show support, including joining this action team, signing the NYS state petition, general outreach/spreading the word, writing to a local official, writing to a newspaper, sharing your personal story with Compassion & Choices, agreeing to speak on panels or attend as an audience member, joining us on Lobby Days in Albany, among other ways.
The Definition of “Aid in Dying”
Aid in dying allows a terminally ill adult who is capable of making decisions the legal option of requesting life-ending medication that the patient can self-administer to end intolerable suffering, but only when and if he or she so chooses.
Key talking points
- We must respect each other’s values around the dying process. Each person should be able to make decisions about his/her own death that are consistent with their own values
- Those of a different faith should not impose values on us or our families.
- Decisions about dying should be made by us, within our own families and consistent with our own values.
- We should have the right to learn about all options at the end of life that will help us have the kind of death we want. And we should have the right to decide which option is best for us.
- Medical aid in dying is one option that can help us or the people we love to face our deaths with courage and dignity.
- The proposed aid in dying law, based on the law that was passed in Oregon 18 years ago (see below), has numerous strict safeguards to make sure it is not abused or misused in any way.
- Aid in dying is not euthanisia. The dying person self-administers aid-in-dying medication, and in one third of cases they never take it all. The patient remains in complete control of aid in dying, unlike euthanasia, where someone else administers life-ending medication.
- Aid in dying is not suicide. People who use it would prefer to live, but they are already dying from a terminal disease, as confirmed by two doctors. Most people who access aid in dying are already receiving optimal end-of-life care in hospice.
New York’s Objectives:
The objective is to pass a law in New York, like those in Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana, and California, that encourages terminally ill patients and their families and doctors to have important end of life discussions and also offers one more important option (aid-in-dying) beyond palliative care or voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. The more options we have, and the more information we have, the likelier it is that we can make medical decisions consistent with our own values, beliefs, and priorities.
- State lawmakers need to be made aware of the legislation and agree to support it, or to at least not to actively oppose it.
- The bill needs to pass both houses of the New York State Legislature.
- It needs to be signed into law by the governor.
Read about the journey of the recent California Aid in Dying law, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015:
Background: How has the law worked in Oregon?
Oregon is the model for the kind of law we’re trying to pass here in New York. Since Oregon’s Dignity Law passed in 1997, it has been closely scrutinized and monitored by a variety of organizations for any signs of problems or abuse. There have been no registered complaints.
In the 20 years since the Oregon law passed:
- 1,328 received prescription
- 857 took the medication
- 471 didn’t (35%)
- Median time between first requesting the medication and death: 47 days (range 15-1,009 days)
- 94.6% died in their own homes
- 90.3% enrolled in hospice
- 98.5% had insurance
The Silver Lining to Oregon’s Law which has educated both patients and doctors:
- 30% increase in referrals to hospice care
- 69% of doctors took continuing education classes to improve end of life care
- 70% were more willing to increase morphine dosages to control pain
- 76% felt better equipped at pain management