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What is ‘Medical Aid in Dying’ bill? Why is it gaining momentum with state lawmakers?

Legislation to allow medical aid in dying bill has been introduced in New York State every year since 2015, and its backers say 2024 could be the year it finally passes.

The bill would allow terminally ill people with only six months to live to use this option rather than endure unending pain.

Proponents point out that numerous safeguards are key components of the bill, including requiring two physicians to approve the request.

Assemblymember Amy Paulin – D-Scarsdale, the bill’s sponsor – said she is convinced the reason it hasn’t passed yet is fear of the unknown.

“Any new concept – and this is relatively new, new for New York, anyway – takes time,” said Paulin. “Death is certainly a very sensitive topic – it’s going to happen to all of us one day, and people avoid thinking about it. In this context, the concerns are forcing someone to do it, protections around it, all of those things.”

Given that it’s a complex and emotional issue, Paulin said she finds it’s taken quite some time to educate people about it.

Opponents often refer to medical aid in dying as “assisted suicide,” but the latest Siena College poll finds more than half of New Yorkers would support a medical aid-in-dying law.

Currently, ten states and Washington, D.C, have medical aid-in-dying laws.

Corinne Carey – campaign director for New York and New Jersey with the nonprofit Compassion & Choices – said she was concerned the pandemic might turn people off to this concept.

Instead, she said she finds it got more people interested in pursuing what she calls a “good death.”

“No death is a ‘good death,'” said Carey, “but certainly New Yorkers know that they don’t want a death where they are separated, isolated from loved ones and suffering at the end.”

A substantial number of New York lawmakers cosigned the bill, and Carey noted that it’s up to the state’s leadership to get this legislation across the finish line.