Legislators Push “Aid in Dying” or Physician Assisted Suicide Bill; Votes in Health Committee Uncertain

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin was joined by Assembly Health Chairman Richard Gottfried and others at a press conference today at the Capitol to push her bill for “aid in dying” as they call it or “physician assisted suicide” as opponents call it.  Paulin’s bill is in Gottfried’s Health Committee and she is trying to round up enough support to get the bill scheduled for a committee vote.  It is unclear that she has the votes at this point with some Democrats opposed.  Paulin related a personal story of a family member and said the bill allows a person a choice but opponents are saying that the bill has a number of major problems.

The bill is opposed by all major disability groups in the state and by the Hospice and Palliative Care Association and the Medical Society along with the Catholic Conference and other religious groups.  To me “death with dignity” already exists and it is called “hospice.”  When many people learn of what hospice offers they are less interested in taking a pill to end their lives.

In 1994 the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, a group of experts appointed by the Governor, issued a report on assisted suicide and came to the following conclusion which still is valid today:

Recent proposals to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in some  states would transform the right to decide about medical treatment into a far broader right to control the timing and manner of death. After lengthy deliberations, the Task Force unanimously concluded that the dangers of
such a dramatic change in public policy would far outweigh any possible benefits. In light of the pervasive failure of our health care system to treat pain and diagnose and treat depression, legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia would be profoundly dangerous for many individuals who are ill and vulnerable. The risks would be most severe for those who are elderly,
poor, socially disadvantaged, or without access to good medical care.

In the course of their research, many Task Force members were particularly struck by the degree to which requests for suicide assistance by terminally ill patients are correlated with clinical depression or unmanaged pain, both of which can ordinarily be treated effectively with current medical techniques. As a society, we can do far more to benefit these patients by improving pain relief and palliative care than by changing the law to make it easier to commit suicide or to obtain a lethal injection.



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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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