Legislation gaining ground in NY that would authorize terminally ill medical aid in dying

Three years ago, at wife of Puerto Rican ‘Arelys’ he was diagnosed with a type of leukemia that even medical science began to know about since 2012. His life expectancy was maybe 16 months. Treatment has been complicated and painful. Live today. The disease has been controlled. Although in this circumstance, there is a firm and reasoned decision: “If for any reason, that condition returns to your body, your option will be not accept more therapies”.

But this firm and conscious position is not supported by New York law.

Thus, Arelys removed in all its fibers Due to the difficult experience of his life partner in the last 22 years, he has become one of the voices that supports the legislation of Medical Aid in Dyingwhich would allow a mentally capable, terminally ill adult with a life expectancy of six months or less to request a prescription to “die in peace.”

“If that time comes, we would not want to have to move to another statein order to have that right. Here we have our family. For me it would be the highest act of love”, the Puerto Rican resident of New York expressed without hesitation.

Ten states including New Jersey and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C.authorize medical assistance to die.

The legislation that is being analyzed, since 2017, would allow the treating physician prescribe a lethal dose of medicationwhich the terminally ill patient can self-administer.

a matter of compassion

Before the beginning of the legislative sessions in a couple of weeks, the organization Compassion & Choices began this Wednesday in Manhattan what they have called the intensification of the campaign to approve the draft of Medical Aid in Dying Act.

The legal initiative defended by dozens of organizations, is based on a series of reliable and proven experiences, which would authorize an adult suffering from a diagnosed terminal pathology, where the chances of recovery are practically nil, take a medicine that shortens the time of agony and suffering.

The defenders of this proposal are clear that the very idea is surrounded by many stigmas, religious beliefs and prejudices. So much so that it is sometimes confusingly called “medically assisted suicide” or “euthanasia”.

We must educate our Hispanic communities a lot, who almost never want to talk about this topic. Many times religions condemn us. They single us out for some decisions. If you are going through hard agony and decide to reduce and eliminate it, that can’t be a sin. A loving and compassionate God is not going to condemn you for that”, reinforced Arelys, who points out that faith communities must be a support in the most difficult moments of human beings.

The islander expresses that also as a lesbian, she has had to face how some religions “condemn and point out” her, for loving a person of the same sex.

“For the false vision and interpretation of many beliefs, our supposed condemnation by God is double. First because we decided to love each other. And second, because we promote an idea of ​​life, which in my opinion It is the proof of a true love”he added.

Puerto Rican Arelys does not want to have to move from New York to accompany her wife to make a decision of “love”. (Photo: F. Martinez)

The goal is 2023

The results of a survey of New York voters from different social and racial spectrums conducted by The Marist Pollshows in recent months “strong support” for medical aid in dying among New York state voters. Support levels hover around 59% on average.

In this sense, the executive director of ‘Compassion & Choices’, Kim Callinan, affirmed that they will continue expanding a series of reflection activities, to share the vision of the advantages of this draft. In parallel, all engines will start so that the State Assembly advances in the approval of this initiative.

“It’s a matter of real compassion, with people dying slowly, and they can rationally decide what is best for them. We are calling for educational campaigns so that this coming year, 2023, will be the year that legislators allow terminally ill New Yorkers, suffering in their final days and weeks, to always consider a compassionate option”Callinan narrowed.

The controversial legislation already has the unrestricted support of the Manhattan Senator Brad Hoylman and a broad group of the Democratic caucuswho defend the position that approving the Medical Aid for Dying Law will not change at all, the values ​​of those who decide not to use this option.

“I firmly believe that those who suffer from cancer or another terminal illness should have the opportunity to die in a way that is consistent with their faith, values ​​and beliefs. All New Yorkers should be able to choose their own path at the end of their lives.”, he stressed.

The parents of a young New Yorker who died last year from deadly tongue cancer are “sponsors” of this legislative idea.

“I’m not fear to die…”

The legislative text and its final details are somehow inspired by the history of Ayla Rain Eilert, a 23-year-old ballet dancer from Manhattan, who unfortunately died in agonizing agony due to a metastatic tongue cancer last spring.

Within a few months of being diagnosed, the cancer spread throughout her body, despite receiving the best treatment and all palliative care available.

The dancer’s parents, Daren and Amy Eilert, joined this Wednesday in a memorial that accompanied other families who They have gone through the vertigo of impotencewatching their loved ones slowly pass away, when there was possibly a more compassionate option.

“Imagine our 23-year-old daughter, in the prime of her life. She living her dream as a ballet dancer, painter and yoga instructor, in the greatest city in the world. She was slowly dying every day. She was reduced by all the weight she lost. It was an indescribable anguish. He told us that he was not afraid of dying, but of continuing with that agony for a longer time”they reported.

This campaign, which is touring various locations in New York, was also joined by Monona Yin de Brooklynthe daughter of Fay Hoh Yin, who was a tireless advocate for medical aid in dying while suffering from incurable lymphoma. She passed away in 2020.

“My amazing mother, she died in my Brooklyn home after from a six-year fight against lymphoma. Mom worked very hard to stay alive, enduring multiple cycles of chemotherapy, radiation, and transfusions. In the end, mom was just skin and bones. Fighting to breathe. She couldn’t understand why she was I had to make them suffer to the bitter end.”recounted who today is a strong activist of this initiative.

crossing tricky lines

According to the argument offered by medical experts and advisors, who promote this legislation, the first thing to achieve is to clearly distinguish the erroneous descriptions that are made on this subject.

Physician-assisted suicide, suicide, and euthanasia are often terms popularly and opponents of this law use to describe the practice of medical aid in dying. This is misleading and factually incorrect.”, assert spokespersons for ‘Compassion & Choices’

Medical aid in dying is fundamentally different from euthanasia.

While both practices are designed to bring about a peaceful death, the distinction between the two boils down to who manages the means for that peaceful death.

Euthanasia is an intentional act, by which another person (not the terminally ill patient) administers the medication.

In contrast, medical aid in dying requires that the patient be able to take the medication on their own and therefore always stay in control.

It must always be emphasized that euthanasia is an illegal act throughout the United States.

State legislatures and courts in states where the practice is already licensed draw a thick line in differentiating between medical aid in dying, suicide, assisted suicide or euthanasia.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in jurisdictions where medical aid in dying is authorized. Legislations in this regard state that actions taken pursuant to these laws, for whatever purpose, do not constitute suicide or assisted suicide”.

God gives and takes life

But everything indicates that it is crossed by crystallize the approval of this legislation in Albany, it is not entirely clear, even more to try to gain popularity in some segments of the population, marked by Christian beliefs, whose paradigms are sustained in that only “God gives and takes life.”

“How many cases of people do not receive a diagnosis from a doctor who predicts a month of life for them. And ten years pass and they are alive and well. It seems to me that New York and the country with these laws want to normalize everything: abortion, suicide. Only God knows”comments the Dominican Cariana Castillo, 50 years old, a resident of Upper Manhattan.

The most radical opponents of this legislation, that closed 2022 with the support of 72 legislatorsinclude leaders of the Catholic Church and some advocates for disabled people, who argue that it is “morally wrong” end one’s own life.

They are concerned that the law will be abused and used to speed up the death of people with severe disabilities.

The limits of the proposed Law in NY:

  • If the legal initiative is approved, people who decide to choose to die assisted by a doctor, must be mentally competent.
  • The legislative text rigorously specifies in what circumstances terminally ill patients who are mentally fit, they can opt for this type of medication.
  • If the treating physician believes that the patient may lack mental capacity to make decisions, the patient will be referred to a mental health professional.
  • Under the Medical Aid in Dying Act, the New York Public Health Law would be amended to include a new provision in Article 28-F of “Aid in Dying”.
  • The legislation would allow an adult with a terminal illness, 21 years of age or older, to end his or her life. with a life expectancy of six months or less.
  • If the mental health professional determines that the patient lacks the capacity to make a decision, the patient will not be considered a qualified individual to receive medication that shorten their existence.
  • The bill provides that a doctor or pharmacist will not be subject to criminal action or professional disciplinary action for taking any reasonable action in good faith related to the medical options to end life.
  • A patient who requests medication, under this legislation, will not be considered for any legal effect as suicidal.

The data:

  • 77% of all New Yorkers support aid in dying, including 75% of Catholics, 72% of Republicans, 67% of self-described conservatives and 78% of upstate New Yorkers, according to a poll released by state lawmakers.

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