NY Alliance Against Assisted Suicide Sends Letter to Assembly Speaker; California Law Takes Effects June 9th

The New York Coalition Against Assisted Suicide sent a  letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Beastie on Thursday saying that a full discussion of the issue is merited in the Assembly after the bill was passed last week in the Assembly Health Committee.  The bill is now in the Codes committee.  That committee will be a tougher one for the bill since there are a number of African American Democrats staunchly opposed in addition to many Republicans and two other Democrats who opposed it in the Health Committee.  It is unlikely the bill will be addressed by the full house this year.

The letter to Heastie said, “We hope you would agree that an issue such as this—one which completely upends existing medical practice and societal norms surrounding life and death—deserves thorough public consideration and debate.

“It is regrettable that such a substantial issue was discussed by the Health Committee in an “off the floor” meeting with very short notice and little public comment. Indeed, the closeness of the committee vote on this issue highlights the lack of public consensus and considerable bi-partisan concerns which the legislation raises. To note just a few that we believe have not been adequately considered:

  •   the importance of palliative medicine and medical advancements in relieving pain;
  •   the under-utilization of hospice care in New York;
  •   the danger that clinical depression plays in decision-making by those with a terminal illness;
  •   the detrimental effects such a law will have on New York’s suicide prevention efforts;
  •   the risks of coercion and abuse of our most vulnerable New Yorkers before and after the prescription is written;
  •   the negative influence of health care cost containment measures on end-of-life decision-making;
  •   the ethical and moral impact on the medical profession;
  •   the lack of medical or governmental oversight after the medications are prescribed.
  •   the risks of mistaken diagnoses and prognoses;
  •   the implications o changing fundamental medical-legal definitions of“cause of death”and “forensic evidence”;
  •   the concerning data from other states which have legalized the practice; and
  •   the dangerous societal implications for persons who are isolated, elderly, poor,chronically ill or disabled.

The letter was signed by James J.J. Hanson, President, Patients’ Rights Action Fund

Diane Coleman, JD President and CEO Not Dead Yet, Bruce Darling, President and CEO
Center for Disability Rights, Lindsay Miller, Executive Director, NY Association on Independent Living, Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Elizabeth Rosenzweig, Chapter Leader, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network of NYC, Beth Mahar, Director of Member Services, Hospice and Palliative Care Association of NYS, Drs. Janet and David Kim, NYS Co-Directors, American Academy of Medical Ethics

Michael Burgess Consultant, Generations of New York, Rev. Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Richard E. Barnes, Executive Director
New York State Catholic Conference, Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz Vice President, Agudath Israel of America, Johann Huleatt Outreach Director Bruderhof Communities

 In California, the bill was passed last summer in a special session which allowed it to bypass committees where there was strong opposition.  The program goes into effect on Thursday, June 9th.  It will take two doctor visits at least 15 days apart to cite that the patient has a terminal illness with less than six months to live.  A person could be referred to mental health counseling if a doctor feels the person needs an assessment first.

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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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