Position Statement – 2024
S.2445-A (Hoylman-Sigal et al. / A995-A (Paulin et al.)
The Medical Aid in Dying Act
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) strongly supports 2445-A (Hoylman-Sigal)/A995-A (Paulin), the “Medical Aid in Dying Act.”
The legislation allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult, with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request a prescription for medication they can self-ingest to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering is unbearable.
The legislation includes strong safeguards protecting against any feared or perceived misuse including that medical aid in dying is only an option for adults who are terminally ill and mentally capable as confirmed by two doctors who also verify that that the individual is making an informed health care decision and is not being coerced. From the initial request to the self-ingestion of the medication, the dying person alone is in charge; and can withdraw their request for aid-in-dying medication, not take the medication once they have it or otherwise change their mind at any time. There is also a mandatory mental health evaluation if either physician has concerns about the person’s mental capacity to make their own healthcare decisions. Perhaps most importantly, no patient, physician, or pharmacist is required to participate in medical aid in dying.
WBASNY supports the Medical Aid in Dying Act, among other reasons, because it involves the individual’s right to choose. Bodily autonomy is under attack at this moment and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision is just the beginning. It is hard to imagine a more intimate and important time in a person’s life when bodily autonomy matters than the end of life.
Moreover, medical aid in dying is overwhelmingly supported and in the ten states, plus Washington DC, that now authorize medical aid in dying, it has become part of comprehensive end-of-life care alongside hospice and palliative care. Most Americans and New Yorkers favor medical aid in dying laws, and many New York physicians and a wide variety of community organizations endorse medical aid in dying. Furthermore, this legislation has widespread support from women’s groups, breast cancer associations, Pro-Choice groups, the LGBTQ community, the NYCLU and the New York State Bar Association. This support is well-founded, not only because of the kindness of providing a means to end the cruelty of irredeemable pain in the last stages of one’s own life, but also because of how carefully such laws have been constructed and how well they work.
This is an issue of bodily autonomy. It is an issue of increased access to quality care. Support for Medical Aid in Dying offers both dignity and compassion to those going through one of the most difficult times in their lives. WBASNY urges the legislature to act immediately to adopt this proposed legislation to ensure that New Yorkers have the right to bodily autonomy during this most crucial, intimate time of life.