What can you do? Here’s a top priority

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.

Find my State Senator

Find my State Assembly Member

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.

Thanks for your time.

(Electronic version of this letter at http://www.compassionandchoices.org/take-action/urge-your-legislators-support-medical-aid-in-dying/


Essay by a California palliative doctor: “Should I Help My Patients Die?”

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.”

What do you think?

Speaking out against the effort in Congress to repeal D.C.’s Death with Dignity law

On August 6, The Buffalo News featured an important essay by Dr. Robert Milch, co-founder and former medical director of the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, about the effort in Congress to repeal DC’s Death with Dignity law. If successful, the move could jeopardize the rights of those in states that have authorized the practice, like Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado.

Stand against this effort. Write to your elected officials in Congress by clicking this link: 


Another Voice: Deceit marks opposition to aid in dying law

By Robert Milch

In a jaw-dropping display of hypocrisy, ineptitude and deceit, the Republican-dominated House Appropriations Committee voted on July 13 to block implementation of the District of Columbia’s Death With Dignity law. The law would allow terminally ill patients with decision-making capacity to access physician aid in dying.

In a 2015 poll, 67 percent of residents of the district approved medical aid in dying. A bill modeled on Oregon’s law, after public input and debate, passed local health committee review in 2016, twice passed votes in the District Council, 11-2, and was signed into law by the mayor in December.

The federal Home Rule Law mandates congressional review within 30 days of any law passed by the district. Congress missed the deadline.

The law went into effect July 17, the seventh locale where aid in dying is legal.

But on July 13, Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, an anesthesiologist endorsed by the tea party, introduced an amendment to the federal spending bill that would invalidate implementing the law. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate. Both await further action.

In advocacy for his amendment, Harris demonstrated either willful ignorance or outright demagoguery in multiple false claims.

Among these, he labels medical aid in dying “suicide,” when the law pointedly states it doesn’t authorize or condone suicide per se, and the American Psychological Association notes “profound psychological differences” between the two acts.

He warns “tourists” will flock to Washington and abuse the law by “injecting” medication, when only district residents can avail themselves of services and the medication must be taken by mouth, unassisted. Without substantiation, he claims the district law is “worse” than other states’ even though it has the same foundation and mandates that have proven safety in practice elsewhere, over decades of application.

But most infuriating is the willingness of Harris and his colleagues, for their own ideological purposes, to abuse the appropriations process to foil the collective electoral will of the people and the individual patient’s autonomy.

By this action, returning authority to the states is shown to be a ruse, and the dire implications for subsequently structured Medicare and Medicaid funding are sobering. So much for the promises of less government in our lives.

A socially conservative philosophy alone does not justify how this amendment would ruthlessly achieve its end. It behooves those who object to this bullying governmental over-reach to inform their representatives of their position and demand they vote against this amendment.

We owe it to the citizens of the District of Columbia. We owe it to ourselves.

Robert Milch, M.D., of Williamsville, is co-founder and former medical director of the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care.

ARTICLE LINK: http://buffalonews.com/2017/08/03/another-voice-deceit-marks-opposition-aid-dying-law/

Write to your elected officials in Congress by clicking this link: 


Physician’s group endorses medical aid-in-dying legislation

See the original article at http://legislativegazette.com/archives/6157.  We’ve pasted in the text below.

Last week, the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, which represents over 6,000 physicians and medical students throughout the state, voted in favor of supporting the New York State’s Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.3151/A.2383). The bill, which the NYSAFP previously held a neutral stance on, would allow for a terminally ill patient to request the use of medication for aid in dying.

The members of Compassion and Choices New York, a nonprofit organization committed to improving medical care and expanding choice at the end of life, are thrilled with the NYSAFP’s vote in support of the bill. The organization’s campaign director Corinne Carey applauded their decision last Monday.

“This exciting news demonstrates that the medical community is moving consistently and decisively to support medical aid in dying as a legitimate end-of-life option for all terminally ill, mentally capable New Yorkers, and an appropriate option for a small number of individuals and their families,” Carey said. “The six-thousand-member NYS Academy of Family Physicians brings its expertise, high standing among medical professionals and enlightened leadership to the effort to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for New York. We thank the Academy and welcome their efforts on behalf of New Yorkers who overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying.”

In more detail, the Medical Aid in Dying Act would serve to provide that a mentally competent, terminally ill patient may request medication to be self-administered for the purpose of hastening the patient’s death. This would be to avoid further pain and suffering, and to offer the patient a peaceful death on their own terms. Moreover, the bill also provides that the patient’s physician, when acting in good faith with the careful provisions of the law, would be protected from civil and criminal liability.

Much of the reason for this bill’s support was highlighted by the death of Brittany Maynard, a young California woman with terminal brain cancer. She was an advocate for the legalization of medical aid in dying, which was not legal in California until 2016. In order to end her own suffering on her own terms, Maynard moved to Oregon, where medical aid in dying is legal.

The argument for the passing of this bill in New York State focuses on the desire of terminally ill patients, like Maynard, to determine for themselves how and when they die. Before the NYSAFP’s vote, many polls conducted in New York showed the rest of the state’s support for this legislation. A 2015 poll found that 77 percent of all New Yorkers support aid-in-dying.

After the NYSAFP vote, their President Dr. Sarah Nosal discussed the Academy’s ultimate decision. “Family Physicians are unique in that we are blessed to care for patients and their families throughout the lifespan, quite literally from cradle to grave,” Nosal said. “Supporting the authorization of medical aid in dying is commensurate with the Family Physician’s desire to empower our patients not only in their pursuit of wellness, their management of chronic disease, but also the alleviation of suffering when faced with a terminal illness.”

The NYSAFP have also cited a handful of reasons to support medical aid in dying. Among them they state that their position of neutrality on the matter can have negative consequences, and can be viewed as patient abandonment. On top of that, they cite the effect in Oregon after the state’s implementation of its Death with Dignity law, which showed that end-of-life care was improved and rates of medical aid in dying showed no evidence of heightened risk for any vulnerable groups such as the disabled, elderly, poor, or uninsured.

Yet, not everyone in the state agrees with the implementation of assisted suicide options in New York. The New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide is an informal association of many diverse organizations, institutions, agencies, and individuals in the state committed to preventing the legalization of assisted suicide. They argue against several facets of medical aid in dying, some of which include the possibility of false terminal prognoses, the fact that a witness to a prescription request could be someone who would inherit from the patient, and the patient’s ultimate consent at the time the medication is administered might not be a sure thing.

The association also argues that assisted suicide poses a threat to those living with disabilities, as pressure can be placed on those in such vulnerable circumstances to use this option. “Nothing in Oregon or Washington style laws can protect from explicit or implicit family pressures to commit suicide or personal fears of ‘being a burden’,” the association states. “There is also no requirement that a doctor evaluate family pressures the patient may be under.” Moreover, the association stresses that barbituates, which are the most common substances used for medical aid in dying, do not assure a peaceful death as there have been associated issues with their effects that can cause distress to the patient.

The New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, a Christian-based organization dedicated to influencing legislation in New York, also take issue with the prospect of this bill. “Physician-assisted suicide represents a complete abdication of our moral responsibility to persons suffering from terminal illnesses,” their website states. “Rather than caring for such persons with the utmost sensitivity and compassion, the sponsors of this bill would have us simply expedite their demise.”

Yet, despite opposition, this vote by the NYSAFP sheds light on the growing number of United States physicians who now endorse the idea of medical aid in dying. With their support, Compassion and Choices NY plans to continue educating New Yorkers about end-of-life options in their attempt to get this bill passed.

Plans for 2018 — a rallying statement from Corinne Carey, New York Campaign Director

As the Compassion and Choices fiscal year ends, the NYS campaign director looks back and forward:

Will 2018 be the year that New York joins six other states and the District of Columbia in allowing New Yorkers the choice of medical aid in dying? On the merits, it absolutely should be.

We know that talking about death and dying is really hard, and that this year, a number of lawmakers faced difficult personal experiences that made it painful to have these discussions with us. But we also know that millions of New Yorkers confront and talk about end of life issues with family, friends, neighbors, and fellow parishioners every day. We know too that they are looking to Albany to provide an important option as they or loved ones face those challenges.

We made great progress this year. An increasing number of legislators are hearing from more of their constituents urging them to support the Medical Aid in Dying Act (S3151/A2383). Over the next six months, with the Legislature out of session, that activity will intensify locally, and there are now fewer than 500 days until all state offices and all 213 legislative seats are up for election.

So, if the Governor and Legislature do not enact the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2018, they will be facing an electorate (see poll) that overwhelmingly supports medical aid in dying in New York, 81-19 percent.

Our campaign, powered by thousands of Compassion & Choices supporters and volunteers – accomplished much during the first half of 2017 on the path to passing a law to provide terminally ill, mentally competent New Yorkers who seek it, an important end-of-life option. Specifically:

  • We’ve nearly doubled the number of sponsors of the Medical Aid in Dying Act from 15 at the beginning of the year to 29 today;
  • We have met with more than three-quarters of legislators in person to understand their views on the issue, answer their questions about aid in dying, and talk to them about its impact in other states where it’s legal;
  • After three years of careful deliberation, the New York Civil Liberties Union position has evolved and NYCLU now supports the bill;
  • The New York State Public Health Association has voted to endorse the bill;
  • The bill is now also supported by the Statewide Senior Action Council;
  • A number of major professional associations representing healthcare professionals have engaged meaningfully with our campaign and are reexamining their positions; and,
  • The Medical Society of the State of New York voted to survey physicians this fall about their attitudes towards aid in dying.

There is still much work to do. We will continue to speak out publicly and be a resource for all New Yorkers who want to learn more about aid in dying. Along with thousands of New Yorkers, we will continue to meet and talk with legislators over the next six months while they are home in their districts.

We strongly believe that when the Legislature and Governor return to Albany for the 2018 legislative session, that they will not want to leave the Capitol to face voters without passing the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

About our statewide phone call on Monday, June 26

A letter from the NY Campaign Director of Compassion & Choices

Aug 23–Sept 4: Visit our booth at the New York State Fair in Syracuse!

The State Fair is a wonderful summertime rite of passage in New York, and Compassion and Choices is going to be there. We’ll be manning an information table at the New York State Fair in Syracuse for the full two weeks of the fair. That’s a long time, so we’re looking for any and all volunteers to help greet visitors to our booth and get their signatures on our petition. We can’t do this alone, so whether you can join us for an hour, a day, or longer, it would be much appreciated!

Our goal this year is to get 5,000 signatures on our petition to let the New York State legislators know that medical aid in dying for terminally ill New Yorkers who request it is a priority for their constituents and the state of New York. The opposition is loud against this proposal, and we need to make our voices heard throughout 2017.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering or how you can help, please email NYEvents@compassionandchoices.org. Or just stop by if you’re in the Syracuse area at the end of the summer. It would be great to see you!

Photos of the Fair and our wonderful volunteers in 2016:

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Opposition to the Medical Aid in Dying Act is heating up. What can you do?

The opposition to medical aid in dying has been very active in the past few weeks:

The opposition is heating up and getting loud, and we have to show that supporters of the Medical Aid in Dying Act are in the majority.

We are stepping up our campaign in the month of May with lots of in-district work and our big Spring Lobby Day on May 9th.

You can raise your voice today. Click here to send a message to your elected officials: https://www.compassionandchoices.org/…/tell-the-legislature/

And Save the Date to come to Albany on May 9 for our big Spring Lobby Day! Here’s the registration page link: http://bit.ly/2nNGIlp or email us at NY@compassionandchoices.org for more information.

I encourage all of you to follow and like us on Facebook (see at the bottom of this page) for daily campaign updates, and invite your friends and colleagues. We need mainstream supporters to join our campaign now more than ever. Thanks for your support and we look forward to seeing you on May 9th.



Why we need you to join us on May 9 Lobby Day (info)

A letter from the Outreach Manager of Compassion & Choices NY

Good Afternoon,

I hope this message finds you doing well.  For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Amanda Cavanaugh and I am the Outreach Manager for Compassion & Choices NY.  As our campaign begins to prepare for our most exciting event of the year, our Lobby Day, I wanted to be sure that you were one of the first to receive an invitation.

It is a really great time for The Medical Aid in Dying Act.  This year, our campaign to expand end-of-life options in the Empire State has been moving forward at full steam. We’ve recently held events in Albany, the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City,  Long Island, Saratoga Springs, and we’re heading to the Catskills within the month.  Soon, we’ll hold our biggest event yet.

On May 9, Compassion & Choices supporters will gather for a lobby day in Albany. We’ll meet with legislators to tell them why New Yorkers feel so strongly about authorizing medical aid in dying. It’s an important opportunity to build support with face-to-face interactions and share personal stories.

Here you can find detailed information, including sign up:
2017 Lobby Day Info

We have also created a Facebook Event, please share it with anyone whom you may think is interested:

WHAT: Compassion & Choices Lobby Day in Albany
WHERE: NY State Capitol, State St. and Washington Ave, Albany, NY (meet on the 3rd floor outside the Senate chambers)
WHEN: Tuesday, May 9, at 9:00 a.m.

Last May, our lobby day was a huge success – more than 100 dedicated supporters registered, and with our bright yellow shirts, we were noticed by the press and throughout the Capitol by lawmakers and other advocates. Though we were well-received by lawmakers, we walked away knowing that we needed to provide more education to make sure legislators and their staffs are fully informed about medical aid in dying.

That’s why we need you to join us in Albany on May 9. Elected officials are eager to know where their constituents stand on medical aid in dying, and this is your chance to impact their decision making.

We will arrange visits with supporters Senators and Assemblymembers, as well as other influential lawmakers, and provide training, materials and talking points in advance.  Compassion & Choices yellow t-shirts will be available if you need one! If you need assistance with transportation or lodging, please let us know on the RSVP page.

Feel free to prepare personal stories in advance of your visit. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for lawmakers to hear personal stories about why this issue means so much to all of us.

Here is a copy of the flyer that we will be using to advertise this event, please share with anyone whom you think may be interested.

LobbyDay2017Flyer (1)

For any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly.

I look forward to seeing you in May!




Join us on May 9 for LOBBY DAY in Albany 2017

Lobby Day • January 2016

Gather with us in Albany on Tuesday, May 9, at 11 am for Lobby Day! Lobby Day consists of attending assigned group meetings with NYState Assemblypeople or their staffs to show them the human face behind the important Medical Aid in Dying Act. You can share your story about why you support the law or simply sit in on the meeting(s) to show your support. The meetings will be over by around 3 pm.

Read this story about last year’s Lobby Day.

Transportation to and from Albany

We have a supporter in New York City who is willing to pay for a bus. The bus would drive up to Albany from the city, stopping in Westchester and maybe points north if there are enough people who want to ride the bus.

Let us know if you’re planning to be at Lobby Day and whether you’re interested in a bus ride via our Contact page so we can gauge interest.

Woodstock screening of “How to Die in Oregon” on April 8

how-to-die-oregon-dvd-fHave you seen this powerful film yet? If not, plan to join us in Woodstock at Upstate Films on April 8 for the screening of “How to Die In Oregon” followed by a Q&A about the proposed New York State Medical Aid in Dying Act.


Woodstock, New York
Screening of “How To Die In Oregon” & discussion of New York’s Medical Aid In Dying Act
Film will begin at 1:30 PM // Discussion will begin at 3:30 PM
Upstate Films
132 Tinker Street
Woodstock, NY 12498
For More Information: http://upstatefilms.org/coming-soon/how-to-die-in-oregon
The event is open to the public
RSVPs requested but not required
RSVP/Questions: NY@CompassionAndChoices.org

If you live in the Lower Hudson Valley and would like us to set up a screening or discussion in your community, please contact us and we can talk about when and how that could happen!

Use this new easy online form to tell the legislature to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act: https://www.compassionandchoices.org/new-york/tell-the-legislature/