Advocates, Opponents to Square Off Over Assisted Suicide

Advocates for “aid in dying” or doctor assisted suicide hold a lobby day in Albany today to support legislation that would make New York the fifth state to support provisions that would allow doctors to prescribe pills for persons to take their own lives.  California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a similar bill this fall.

Opponents are planning to speak to the press in Albany today to oppose the bill saying that hospice care is what people need and that the bill proposed has many issues that need to be addressed including disposal of drugs not used and mental health counseling.  A wide coalition of people opposing the bill include major disability organizations, hospice advocates, many doctors as well as religious organizations.

JJ Hansen, who worked for Governors Spitzer and Paterson and who was diagnosed with brain cancer and given four months to live will be speaking against the bill.  His cancer is in remission twenty months later and he says that many times in the midst of the pain if a pill was available he might have been tempted to use it.  Now, he is fighting the bill and saying we should be offering people hope.

I will also be down at the Capitol working against this bill which would put great pressure on many older people who often feel like a burden when they are seriously ill and regret losing their independence.  Many are depressed and to me, what they really want and need is love and caring, not a pill.   Hospice is a better alternative to provide comfort from pain and social and spiritual support to people in their last days.  This bill “normalizes” suicide at a time when the suicide rate for  younger people not facing terminal illness is going up (because of substance and drug abuse) and communities across the state are stepping  up  suicide prevention efforts.

In New Jersey the state Assembly has passed a bill for assisted suicide but the State Senate could not muster the votes for it as several Democrats refused to support it.  This type of bill has done well in the polls until all the arguments against it are raised.  A referendum in Massachusetts in 2012 began with the proposal having over 70% support in polls but was defeated at the ballot box by a 51% -49% margin.

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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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