One of Compassion & Choices’ top priorities in New York is to let our legislators know that there are voters in their districts to whom this issue really matters. If we stay quiet, it’s easier for them to think that nobody really cares and ignore the legislation that’s being worked on and presented by the bill’s sponsors.
So if you have a moment, please follow these links to find out who your state senator or assemblyperson is and drop her or him a line about your support for medical aid in dying.
Looking for a short cut? This letter, composed by Compassion & Choices is already pre-written for you.
Subject line: Please support medical aid in dying
I am writing to ask you to sponsor legislation that makes the medical practice of aid in dying accessible for the people of our state. It is good law and responsible policy with a documented record of safety.
I am one of the 100 million Americans who followed Brittany Maynard, just 29 years old, and her courageous journey to death with dignity in Oregon. Now I am answering her call to action to join a nationwide movement that will make death with dignity an accessible healthcare choice for terminally ill Americans. She said it was unethical that most of us don’t have that option, and I agree.
Like 70 percent of people in this country, I believe that our rights and freedoms are ours to exercise until we take our last breath, and having a terminal illness doesn’t change that. I am calling on you as my elected representative to guarantee those rights for me.
You have the opportunity and the responsibility to give this freedom to your constituents. The record shows that in states where it is an authorized medical practice, aid in dying works as intended, and is not subject to abuse. It also provides great peace of mind to terminally ill adults as they approach life’s end.
Brittany Maynard demonstrated that people who want death with dignity would rather live and are not suicidal. She was busy living fully until the very end. Brittany chose to access Oregon’s 17-year old death-with-dignity law and her extended family supported her decision to avoid the cruel and drawn out dying process her cancer would bring.
Aid in dying is not a choice of death over life. It is an option for those who are dying that spares them unbearable suffering and offers a controlled and peaceful ending. All dying people deserve that option, and the tremendous peace of mind that comes with it.
Hello from the Lower Hudson Valley in beautiful May.
The below spring update from NYS Campaign Director Corinne Carey summarizes all the swirling activity around New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act.
A recent highlight for your LHV team leaders Laura Kelly and Stacey Gibson was the opportunity on May 3 to voice our support for the bill in front of the New York State Assembly Health Committee (led by the resolute committee chair Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and Assemblymember/bill sponsor Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale). Both Laura and Stacey told the stories of their loved ones’ unfortunate last days in a succinct 5 minutes. You can watch their testimonies in the links below (go to the May 3 section of this bulletin).
It’s still (unfortunately) going to be a long battle to get this law passed, but if you listen to the testifiers you’ll see that right and might are on our side. We appreciate your continued support. Onwards and upwards!
Recent highlights and some next steps for the readers of this bulletin:
Advocates from all four regional, statewide, and national groups came together to form the New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying. You can read about it here.
Compassion & Choices New York tabled at the SOMOS El Futuro conference in Albany, answering questions about end-of-life options and talking to conference-goers about the Medical Aid in Dying Act.
But this Spring’s highlight was the fact that the New York State Assembly Health Committee held two hearings on the Medical Aid in Dying Act, A2383a/S3151a this Spring. The first hearing was held in Albany on April 23; the second in NYC on May 3. The Committee heard 74 people testify – 48 in favor and 26 opposed – over 14 hours.
You can watch video of both hearings here: http://nyassembly.gov/av/ hearings/ The video is easy to navigate; you can scroll through to find the person you want to see testify. There’s a box underneath the video that shows the order in which people appeared at each hearing, and if you click on that person’s name, you’ll be taken to that segment of the video. You can review some of the highlights from each day’s testimony below.
We were pleasantly surprised by news of the release of a Quinnipiac poll on May 3, the day of the second hearing, that showed that 63% of New York voters support “allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives.” Only 29% were opposed. The poll also showed that non-white voters support the idea by a 15-point margin: 54% – 39%.
The hearings held by the NYS Assembly Health Committee elevated to a new level the issue of expanding end-of-life choices to allow for medical aid in dying. Lawmakers are having discussions amongst themselves about this issue, and the next step for the legislation would be a vote of the NYS Assembly Health Committee on the bill. This can’t happen without your help.
The legislative session ends on June 20, and we need those who support this bill to help us grow support, particularly in places like New York City, Long Island, and Buffalo. There are three things that you can do right now to help us move the bill in the legislature:
If you haven’t already sent a message to your elected representatives in Albany, please do so right now. You can use this link to send a personalize message today: https://www. compassionandchoices.org/new- york/tell-the-legislature/ You’ll need to provide your address on the page so that the program knows which Assemblymember and which Senator to send your note to.
If you have the time to make a phone call today, you can look up the people who represent you in Albany and call them. Click on this link: http://www.elections.ny.gov/ district-map/district-map.html After entering your address and hitting “go,” select NYS Senate to find your Senator, and NYS Assembly to find your Assemblyperson. Each of those representatives should have a webpage that you can click on to find their district office phone number. Call them and tell them that you support the Medical Aid in Dying Act, A.2383/S.3151.
In-person meetings with your representatives in your own home town are the most important way that you can let them know that you support this measure. If you haven’t yet met with your Assemblymember or your Senator to let them know that you want them to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act, please get in touch with us and we’ll match you with a group and help you set up a meeting. Email NY@compassionandchoices.org today to find out how to get involved with a meeting in your hometown!
This summer, our campaign will be in Buffalo, Brooklyn, Long Island, and several other communities throughout the state at street fairs and events to talk to voters about their support for the Medical Aid in Dying Act. If you’d like to get involved in your own area, or join us at one of our already-scheduled events, please email us at NY@compassionandchoices.org.
If you want to plan an activity in your own area, we have plenty of materials and experience to share with you! If you have an idea for a canvassing or signature-gathering event, or a table at your own local fair or event, we can talk with you about your idea, and ship you an Advocacy Toolkit so that you can run an event yourself. Contact us at NY@compassionandchoices.org to find out more.
We look forward to seeing you this summer, and working with you to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the full range of choices at the end of life, including access to medical aid in dying.
Below are some highlights from some of those who testified in support of the bill on April 23 in Albany.
>>Dr. Diana Barnard from Vermont was the first to testify on April 23 in Albany, and she described her experience as a provider in Vermont, and the 40+ combined years of evidence over the 8 jurisdictions that now authorize medical aid in dying.
>>Dr. Omega Silva, an 81-year-old retired physician living in Washington, D.C. with three cancer diagnoses who taught and practiced medicine in D.C. for 50 years, served as the first woman president of the Howard University Medical Alumni Association and was former president of the American Medical Women’s Association, traveled 14 hours to Albany to tell lawmakers how the instinct to add more safeguards to a bill that already has enough has resulted in no one being able to use the law in DC.
>>Former Republican Assemblymember Janet Duprey addressed the Committee and spoke of her own parents’ deaths. She said: “it took eleven agonizing days as my family and I watched our mother and grandmother starve to death. When the end finally came my daughter and I were holding her hands. I can tell you from experience, forcing a person and their loved ones to live through that kind of torture isn’t something we should be proud of as a society. I hope none of you ever have to go through it. To this day I still miss my parents. I am not going to presume that my Dad a devout Irish Catholic or my Mom an equally devote Methodist would have chosen to ask for medical aid in dying at the end. But I am certain that they should have had the ability to choose their own destiny, and I want the ability to choose my own destiny.” You can read an opinion piece that Assemblymember Duprey authored on this topic here.
>>Dr. Christopher Riddle, an ethicist and disability rights advocate from Utica, testified that denying access to aid in dying because we fear the risk that it poses to people living with disability actually demeans and infantilizes people with disabilities. He said, “if we want to promote dignity and respect for the disabled, I suggest it is of utmost importance that we do not allow opposition to assisted dying to deny basic autonomy rights at the end of life.”
>>Disability right advocate Gene Hughes echoed this theme when he talked about his own desire for autonomy and independent living, and how he and others living with disabilities deserve to make their own decisions about dying as they are about the lives the live.
>>Two women living with terminal illness brought the room to tears, and also laughter. Bernadette Hoppe and Susan Rahn both did media before and after the hearing, you can see two great stories about Bernadette from Spectrum News and the Buffalo Law Journal. Bill sponsor, Assemblymember Amy Paulin featured Susan’s testimony on her Facebook page here. Susan was also featured in an excellent article on this subject earlier in our campaign in the Rochester City paper.
>>Scott Barraco from Rochester testified about the horrific death his girlfriend Cathy suffered and said “People not only suffer terrible deaths against their wishes, they suffer the anticipation of it. Cathy was robbed of her ability to plan and make decisions about her death in the same way she did for her life.” Barraco’s story was featured in a piece run on Spectrum News after the hearing (you can view it here: http://spectrumlocalnews.com/ nys/capital-region/news/2018/ 04/16/new-alliance-for- medical-aid-in-dying- legislation), and his story has resonated with people far beyond the bounds of New York State.
>>Dr. Bob Milch, an internationally-recognized palliative care specialist and founder of hospice in Western New York and Dr. Jay Federman, a Saranac Lake-based family doctor and Medical Director for the Tri-Lakes division of High Peaks Hospice, both delivered strong testimony in favor of the bill. Dr. Federman testified that aid in dying would not be an alternative to palliative care but instead would represent “one component of end-of-life” care. The Oneonta Star was persuaded by this, and issued a strong editorial in favor of the bill on May 5.
>>Two women from Ithaca told two stories that began with the diagnosis of a loved one with cancer, but ended in dramatically different ways. Myra Shulman talked about the peaceful death of her mother under California’s End of Life Option Act, and Laurene Gilbert told the committee about how her husband, because he lived in New York without access to aid in dying, suffered, tried to take his own life, and died days later in a coma, not a death he deserved.
>>Barbara Thomas represented the League of Women Voters, which recently came out in support of the legislation after a year-long deliberative process among all of the state’s local chapters. Barb serves as the League’s specialist on this issue in part because of the experience she had with her husband, who suffered tremendously at the end of life and begged her for help to die.
>>Janet Green from Poughkeepsie testified before the committee in remembrance of her best friend and partner of 26 years, Harry, whose pain medication never fully alleviated his pain. Harry begged for help to die. “I feel a sense of peace,” Janet said, “knowing that when the New York State legislature finally adopts the Medical Aid in Dying Act, they will be helping me to honor Harry’s memory, and prevent needless suffering for others like us.”
>>Reverend Doctor Richard Gilbert testified late in the day, and summarized many of the arguments for authorizing medical aid in dying. He spoke most eloquently about the hundreds of deaths he’s attended, distinguishing suicide — characterized by pain, despair, and anguish, with medical aid in dying, the right to die with dignity, “the last right of a human being.” He concluded, “the greatest reverence for life is to end human suffering.”
Testifying against the bill at the April 23 hearing were: Dr. Sally White who talked about how pain and suffering are a part of life and cannot be avoided; disability rights advocates from the group Not Dead Yet; and Kristen Hanson, the wife of recently-deceased opponent and past president of the Patients Rights Action Council, JJ Hanson.
Dr. Thomas Madejski, the new president of the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) also testified against the bill, citing a survey that had been designed to determine the position of it’s doctors. See MSSNY’s release here. Madejski testified that the group’s survey suggested that a majority of New York doctors oppose aid in dying. Assemblymember Paulin, the bill’s sponsor challenged MSSNY’s president on the “Survey Monkey” results, asking whether MSSNY knew how many respondents were MSSNY members, let alone doctors.
Madejski has since admitted that advocates on both sides of the issue circulated the survey to non-MSSNY members. The New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying responded to Dr. Madejski’s testimony with this press release, and Compassion & Choices’ African American and Latino Leadership Councils addressed the Health Committee with a letter in response. [insert link here]
Below are highlights from some of those who testified in support of the bill on May 3 in New York City.
>>3 bioethicists testified in favor, including one of the nation’s leading bioethicists from NYU, Dr. Arthur Caplan, who described how he changed his mind and dropped his opposition to aid in dying. He was featured in an article in Religion News that touched on his views on aid in dying.
>>3 family members lovingly described beautiful deaths of people who used aid in dying laws in WA & VT. You can read a bit about Nancy Murphy’s sister’s story here; Nancy lives in NY’s North Country and a snippet from her story was used in a news article several months ago. Rachel Remmel traveled to NYC from Rochester to talk about her 31-year old brother’s use the WA law–the youngest person to use it. Her brother documented his decision in very powerful blog entries that Remmel talked about. And, the room was reduced to puddles when 80-year old father Richard Friedberg broke down in tears talking about the beautiful death of his belly-dancing daughter who used Oregon’s Death with Dignity law.
>>7 physicians, including New York’s noted palliative care physician, Dr. Timothy Quill of the Supreme Court case, Vacco v. Quill; two physicians from the New York Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Sara Nosal and Dr. Heather Palladine, who spoke of their own experience, and the position of the Academy, which issued its own press release about the group’s strong support; Dr. David Pratt who’s TED talk you can see here, who found a way to weave Yogi Berra into his testimony; Dr. Sarah Egan, director of Hospice of New York; New Paltz family physician Dr. Maggie Carpenter; and retired pathologist and Long Island resident Dr. Yale Rosen, who had this piece published in 5/3’s Newsday.
>>6 people who told heart-rending stories of the deaths of loved ones who were not able to access medical aid in dying, and died in needless pain and suffering, including Jay Kallio’s girlfriend Bonnie Rose Marcus who described Jay screaming in pain in his Beth Israel hospital bed (you can see a video about Jay here); Stacey Gibson who detailed her husband Sid’s horrendous VSED death (you can read about their story here); Lindsay Wright who told of packing up and leaving NYC so that her NYU professor husband Youssef Cohen could die in Oregon (you can watch their story here); Laura Kelly, whose tough, Irish Catholic dad asked to go to VT, but was too weak to do so (see their story here); and Peggy Lang told the committee about her mom’s hellish experience in hospice, despite the promises made by the facility in it’s happy brochures.
>>The O’Connors, a couple from Red Hook, NY who told a gorgeously woven-together story about Patty’s brother who died alone, not wanting to jeopardize anyone in his family when he took his own life. Ed said: “there was only one person who asked us the natural question: ‘How did he do it?’ And the question was not asked out of morbid curiosity, but out of practicality.” He asked the committee to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Law to give his sister, a New Yorker with ovarian cancer, the peace of mind to know that she could end unbearable suffering and could do so surrounded by the love of her family.
>>New York City resident Ida Schmertz talked about her 30-year journey living with three lymphoma diagnoses and her desire for medical aid in dying when there are no more options left;
>>Representatives from the New York Civil Liberties Union (Beth Haroules), and the Latino Commission on AIDS (Guillermo Chacon) who both shared strong testimony in favor of the bill. You can read NYCLU’s testimony here. El Diario posted a great piece featuring Chacon that you can read here.
>>Our partners with our newly-formed New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying (which you can read about here) also testified, with 2-3 of their own supporters. Peg Sandeen was the first to appear before the committee; and David Leven and Judith Schwartz provided quality testimony in favor of the bill. With them was a terminally ill supporter Barbara Backer, as well as Columbia-based bioethicist David Hoffman.
>>Compassion & Choices’ New York Campaign Manager Amanda Cavanaugh told the very moving story of her own partner’s painful death while receiving hospice care; and Campaign Director Corinne Carey was the last person to testify, addressing two points opponents had made that hadn’t been addressed by any other testifier: the perceived flaw in the definition of terminal illness that opponents said would allow someone who was unable to afford treatment to access aid in dying; and that people of color oppose the legislation.
Testifying against the bill in New York City were several Catholic doctors; Margaret Dore of Choice is An Illusion; several NY-based advocates living with disabilities; Julie Hocker, a disability rights advocate who works for the American Conservative Union; a representative from Agudath Israel; a doctor from Montreal who spoke about Canada’s experience with aid in dying; A Nevada doctor and Catholic Church deacon, T. Brian Callister; Ed Mechmann, Director of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of New York, and several family members who spoke of premature prognoses and the valuable time spent with dying loved ones they would have been deprived of had aid-in-dying been an option.
If you weren’t able to testify in person, but you have a story to share, please let us know and we’ll be happy to talk to you about the best way to do it.
From Corinne Carey, the campaign director for Compassion & Choices in New York:
A few important pieces of news to share:
On April 16, 2018, Compassion & Choices will stand with three other leaders in advancing end of life care in New York — End of Life Choices New York, Death with Dignity National Center, and Death with Dignity Albany — to announce the formation of the New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying. The alliance of these four groups comes as support for medical aid in dying increases among the public and in the Legislature.
The League of Women Voters of New York State has come out in support of medical aid in dying after a long and thoughtful process involving the majority of the groups more than 40 state chapters. You can read about it here.
The New York State Assembly is holding two hearings on the Medical Aid in Dying Act (the first hearing happens on April 23 on our designated Lobby Day). You can learn more about those hearings from the Assembly here, and from us on Facebook here (Albany) and here (NYC).
Also, on April 5, Hawai’i became the 7th stateand 8th jurisdiction to adopt a medical aid-in-dying law. Read about it here.
Hello to all the Compassion & Choices supporters in the Lower Hudson Valley!
Stacey and Laura recently met with the state campaign leaders of Compassion & Choices, Corinne Carey and Amanda Cavanaugh. The C&C leaders went over their 2018 agenda with us and asked us for help on a short list of items. So now we’re asking for YOUR help.
Please read the below and see what you can do…
1. Join us in Albany on April 23
Lobby Day is where we meet up with our legislators and their staffs in pre-scheduled meetings in their Albany offices to share with them why passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act is so important to us. It’s an energizing experience and a very effective use of your time.
2. Show your support at one of the upcoming hearings on Medical Aid in Dying this spring
The New York State Assembly has agreed to host two public hearings on the Medical Aid in Dying Act, one on April 23 in Albany (on our Lobby Day), and one on May 3 in NYC. This is where we supporters can speak directly to our legislators in a public forum about this very important topic. It is not standard practice for New York to hold open hearings so this is a HUGE step forward for our campaign!
These hearings are the most important advocacy event yet for the Medical Aid in Dying campaign in New York so we need you at the hearings to pack the room. (Our opponents will certainly be there in force.) Please also consider testifying at the hearings and making your voice heard. (We can send you more info on that, if you write back to us. email@example.com)
Immediately following the hearing in Albany on April 23, the campaign is setting up opportunities for important meetings with your lawmakers. See Item 1 above for more info about Lobby Day.
Let us know if you’re interested in testifying on either April 23 or May 3 and we can send you more info. If you don’t want to testify it’s ok. We really just need you to come be part of our group to show our state legislators how strong our support is for this issue. So please make every effort to join us on either or both of these two hearings days and make our voices heard.
One of our top goals this year for our cause is to get more co-sponsors in the Assembly and Senate for our bill. In some other states, voters have voted on Medical Aid in Dying laws, but in New York State the law will go into effect only after being approved by the State Assembly, the Senate and then the Governor. It’s a long legislative journey. The more co-sponsors the bill has, the faster it may move up the ladder.
What can we grassroots supporters do about this legislative process? We can help our NY State campaign leaders line up co-sponsors for our bill in the legislature.
Corinne and Amanda have met with every lawmaker in both the New York House and Senate to find out where they stand on our issue.
They have identified three Assembly Members in Westchester and Putnam counties who might become bill co-sponsors if we constituents meet with them and specifically request their support. Laura and Stacey are willing to set up and lead the meetings but we need a group presence to really make an impact. Who will join us?
Here are the three Assemblymen and their office locations. The meetings would probably be sometime in spring or summer 2018. If you’re a constituent of one of these Assembly Members or know someone who is, please let us know! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Assembly member David Buchwald (Assembly District 93: Bedford, Harrison, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Lewisboro, Mt. Kisco, Pound Ridge, and White Plains)
We need group endorsers on our issue. Polls show that the majority of individual New Yorkers would like to have options at the end of life and a law allowing this. But we need the muscle of institutional endorsers to really put this issue on the map for our Legislature (see above on how the legislators are the ones who are going to pass this law for us).
Are you a member of a cancer coalition? An ALS foundation? A nursing organization? An HIV/AIDS fundraising group? A large senior group? A sympathetic religious group? Another New York group that might be willing to endorse the Medical Aid in Dying bill? If so, let us know and we’ll give you the tips and handouts for making the first outreach, and then Corinne and Amanda will take it from there.
5. Ask your doctor where he or she stands
Until we get more physicians and hospice providers to sign on as supporters of our bill, it won’t get very far. Please ask your doctor if they are a supporter of the medical aid-in-dying option at end of life, or would at least or not oppose this bill.
Judging from other states’ experience, the support and discussion about our bill will grow from physician to physician, and eventually rise to the state medical organization level, but we patients are the ones who need to get the ball rolling.
The New York State campaign leaders Corinne Carey and Amanda Cavanaugh are planning a Statewide Campaign Update conference call for supporters on Thursday, January 4 from 7 – 8 pm where they’ll be joined by one of our bill sponsors. Information about how to call in and hear the updates will be emailed to you and/or posted here closer to Jan. 4.
When discussing your support for Medical Aid in Dying in New York, do you sometimes wish you had more facts? These 1-page sheets give you a start on the talking points you need while explaining to others why you are for this important law.
Compassion & Choices praised a suicide-prevention medical research association for issuing a statement Thursday concluding medical aid in dying “is distinct from the behavior that has been traditionally and ordinarily described as ‘suicide.’”
“In suicide, a life that could have continued indefinitely is cut short,” said Colleen Creighton, executive director of The American Association of Suicidology, AAS, whose membership includes mental health and public health professionals. “PAD [physician aid in dying] is not a matter of life or death; it is a matter of a foreseeable death occurring a little sooner but in an easier way, in accord with the patient’s wishes and values, vs. death later in a potentially more painful and protracted manner. In PAD, the person with a terminal illness does not necessarily want to die; he or she typically wants desperately to live but cannot do so; the disease will take its course.”
Medical aid in dying is an option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable in the District of Columbia and six states: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. These jurisdictions have a combined 40-year track record with no evidence of misuse of this practice. In addition, the specific statutes in the District of Columbia, California, Colorado , Oregon, Vermont, and Washington stipulate that: “Actions taken in accordance with [the Act] shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide…”
“The American Association of Suicidology is dedicated to preventing suicide, but this has no bearing on the reflective, anticipated death a physician may legally help a dying patient facilitate, whether called…physician-assisted dying, or medical aid in dying,” concluded Creighton. “In fact, we believe that the term ‘physician-assisted suicide’ constitutes a critical reason why these distinct death categories are so often conflated, and should be deleted from use.”
The AAS statement is timely because last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill (HR 3354) with an amendment that would repeal D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law. Twelve days later, some House members introduced a concurrent resolution (H.Con.Res.80) condemning medical aid in dying as ‘assisted suicide.’
“The AAS announcement should deter members of Congress from trying to deprive terminally ill Americans of the compassionate option of medical aid in dying when no other medical option can provide relief from intolerable suffering,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse for 25 years and coauthor of the nation’s first medical aid-in-dying law in Oregon in 1994. “Numerous other health and medical groups concur with the AAS’s conclusion. Both federal and state lawmakers should defer to their expertise on this medical issue.”
“Medical aid-in-dying laws enable the relatively few people who choose this option to peacefully die in their sleep,” said Kim Callinan, chief program officer for Compassion & Choices. “These laws also spur terminally ill people to discuss with their loved ones and doctors and better use all their end of life options, including hospice and palliative care.”
Do you have friends and family who have questions about the current end-of-life options in New York?
Please spread the word that Compassion & Choices is coming tothe Mount Kisco Public Library to host a screening of the award-winning film “How To Die In Oregon,” followed by a discussion of New York’s proposed Medical Aid In Dying Act.
About the film: In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. As a result, any individual whom two physicians diagnose as having less than six months to live can lawfully request a fatal dose of barbiturate to end his or her life. Since 1994, more than 500 terminally ill Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands at the end of their lives. In “How to Die in Oregon,” filmmaker Peter Richardson gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether – and when – to end their lives by lethal overdose. Richardson examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. What emerges is a life-affirming, staggeringly powerful portrait of what it means to die with dignity.
When: – Saturday, November 18, 2017 – Film begins at 12:30 pm – Q&A follows immediately after at 2:15 pm
– Mount Kisco Public Library, 2nd Floor Community Room (elevator accessible)
– 100 East Main Street, Mount Kisco, NY 10549; (914) 666-8041
Compassion and Choices has set a goal of gathering 6,000 signatures during the NY State Fair, and as the Fair comes to an end, we are very close to reaching our goal. If we can meet this target, we can show the governor and top leaders in the state legislature that there is widespread support for medical aid in dying across the state.
Have you signed a petition before? Please sign again! This petition will go to Governor Cuomo and really make an impact. There are only a few days of the fair left and we want to be sure that we meet our goal.
See the below 8/24/17 letter with details from NY Campaign Director Corinne Carey, as well as a link to her recent live interview at the State Fair.
I’m writing to you from the New York State Fair in Syracuse! It’s the second day of the fair, and we’ve already collected hundreds of signatures to send to Governor Andrew Cuomo to let him know how strongly New Yorkers feel about becoming the next state to authorize medical aid in dying.
Today is Governor’s Day, and the governor himself toured the State Fair yesterday. We’ve set a target of 6,000 petition signatures to deliver to the governor by the end of the fair. And even if you aren’t able to make it out to Syracuse, you can help our campaign by signing the petition.
Our opponents recently delivered thousands of petitions against medical aid in dying to the governor’s office, and while we know support outweighs opposition in our state, we have to demonstrate that support so the governor and other elected officials can see it.
If we can come together and show our support to the governor and top legislative leaders, we can convince them to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Take action today to help us win.
Sign the petition to show the Governor that the Medical Aid in Dying Act has strong support across the state:
The L.A. Times featured this article about the “unforeseen benefit” of California’s aid-in-dying law. Compassion & Choices has always said that when a state adopts a law that authorizes medical aid in dying, end-of-life care gets better for everybody. Now, people in California know it first hand. Please share in your circles.
There’s an unforeseen benefit to California’s new physician-assisted death law
California’s physician-assisted death law has an unforeseen benefit. (Aug. 21, 2017)
By Soumya Karlamangla
Some doctors in California felt uncomfortable last year when a new law began allowing terminally ill patients to request lethal medicines, saying their careers had been dedicated to saving lives, not ending them.
Many healthcare systems designed protocols for screening people who say they’re interested in physician-assisted death, including some that were meant to dissuade patients from taking up the option.
But physicians across the state say the conversations that health workers are having with patients are leading to patients’ fears and needs around dying being addressed better than ever before. They say the law has improved medical care for sick patients, even those who don’t take advantage of it.
“One doctor said we should be able to order the End of Life Option Act without the drugs,” said Dr. Neil Wenger, director of the UCLA Health Ethics Center. “It really has created a new standard for how we ought to be helping people at the end of life.”
California last year became the fifth state to allow people with terminal illnesses to request pills from their doctors to end their lives. In the first six months the law was in effect, 111 terminally ill patients ended their lives that way, state officials said.
The law requires that two doctors agree that the patient has an incurable illness with no more than six months to live and has the mental capacity to make such a decision. Many health systems set up additional protocols for patients who express interest in the law.
At UCLA, they’re required to talk to psychologists or social workers, which often reveals concerns that weren’t being addressed, said Anne Coscarelli, a clinical psychologist who heads the team of health workers that meets with these patients.
The health workers ask patients a variety of questions: what scares them, how they’re feeling, what they’re worried about, what defines their quality of life.
Sometimes doctors end up adjusting patients’ medicines or treatments because patients hadn’t before expressed how much pain they were in. Some patients decide to go on hospice earlier than they would have otherwise.
“Not everyone who’s talking about this is saying, ‘I want this medication.’ They’re saying, ‘I’m suffering’ or ‘I’m worried about suffering’ and that becomes the conversation starter … and it might not come up in any other way,” Coscarelli said.
First 6 months of aid-in-dying in California
-191 people prescribed lethal medications -111 died from taking lethal medications -Of the 111, 87% were at least 60 years old -96% had health insurance -84% were receiving hospice or palliative care -59% had cancer
Sources: California Department of Public Health
Approximately 100 patients at UCLA began the process to receive a prescription in the first 12 months the law was in effect, but only about a quarter ended up getting prescriptions, Wenger said.
Coscarelli said psychologists and social workers have also helped patients come to terms with dying. For some, it can be as simple as getting their legal or financial affairs in order.
Others have confronted the question of what legacy they will leave behind. Some record video messages for their loved ones. One woman put together a folder for each of her children and grandchildren filled with stories about them and stories about her, Coscarelli said.
“That becomes something that we can introduce people to in these conversations, whereas they might not have ever thought about it,” she said.
Doctors have sometimes struggled to talk about dying with patients. According to a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 89% people believe doctors should discuss end-of-life care with patients, but only 17% had had such a conversation with their health care provider.
But now, physicians say patients are curious about the law and asking about it, which provides them an opportunity to have these frank discussions.
A study from Oregon, which legalized aid-in-dying 20 years ago, found that though only 1 of 640 terminally ill patients took lethal medications, 1 of 50 talked to their physician about it and and 1 in 6 talked to their families about it.
“There’s a lot of need for talk, and talk is something that’s bigger and broader than the actual aid-in-dying itself,” Coscarelli said.
Dr. Bob Uslander, who specializes in palliative and hospice care, said that at a recent speaking event in San Diego, he fielded dozens of questions about not just physician-assisted death but also other end-of-life care options.
He said he thinks the unprecedented interest spurred by the law will lead to more thoughtful planning around death, such as the creation of more advanced care directives.
“We’ll get more people to actually make their wishes known and document their wishes,” Uslander said.
The law still faces heavy opposition from some corners. Many doctors still don’t want to write the prescriptions. A group of doctors has also filed a lawsuit saying that the law essentially decriminalizes assisted suicide and strips terminally ill patients of their protections under state law. A judge ruled earlier this summer that the case would be allowed to go to trial.
Doctors aren’t required to participate in the law and health systems can opt out. At Catholic and church-affiliated hospitals, which make up 13% of all acute care hospitals in the state, doctors are not allowed to prescribe such medications.
But even at those institutions, requests for the medicines have sometimes helped identify issues that health workers can assist with, said Lori Dangberg, vice president of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care. Patients fear they’ll be a burden on their families, or are scared of what’s to come, she said.
The Catholic and church-affiliated hospitals have also begun a collaboration with local dioceses to hold workshops on end-of-life matters, she said. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles now offers a workshop on end-of-life care including ethics, palliative and hospice care as well as pastoral care at the end of life.
“I think what this new law has done, it’s really a reminder we need to do a much better job with caring for people through the end of life,” Dangberg said.
Dr. Stephen Lockhart, chief medical officer for Sutter Health, said that before the law went into effect, doctors received training in how to talk about aid in dying, but also in other end-of-life options. They had their questions answered by medical ethicists.
He said that more patients are broaching the topic with their physicians than before. Even patients who have wills or advanced care directives had not always planned out their end-of-life wishes with their families.
“It takes a certain amount of courage to step into those conversations and … we have people now stepping into those conversations and they now have the support to move through them,” he said.
This op-ed ran on the front page of the August 6, 2017 New York Times Week in Review about a palliative doctor in California grappling with her feelings—and finding a solid protocol—for dealing with patients’ requests for aid in dying. The doctor’s description of what the California law covers and how it is rolling out may help answer a lot of questions for New York readers, while perhaps raising some others. As Lower Hudson Valley C&C co-leader Stacey Gibson says, “I think some very good points are raised in the essay, but whenever someone wants to over-complicate something that has been working so well for more than 20 years—like the law in Oregon—with more potential regulation like is suggested in her op-ed, I get very nervous.”