Statewide Tour to Urge Legislature to Do the Right Thing & Pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act in 2023

By Corinne Carey | November 16, 2022

Dying 86-Year-Old Tupper Lake Veteran Makes Death Bed Plea

An 86-year-old veteran from Tupper Lake, suffering in a hospice bed, as he and his family wait for him to die. Last week, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a column from Raymond Stark, who wrote, “Now I’m 86 and I’m dying. I strongly believe I should have the ability to decide what the end of my life looks like. It’s not for someone else to tell me I have to stay in this bed waiting around for the next heart attack. I want to go quickly and painlessly.”

If Mr. Stark lived in Vermont or New Jersey he would be eligible for medical aid in dying. But because he lives in New York – albeit, only a few miles from Vermont – he is not. That is cruel and it is wrong, and 2023 is the year we stop the suffering for too many New Yorkers and their families and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live to request a prescription from their doctor for medication they can take when their suffering becomes too great to bear and die peacefully. That is all this 86-year-old veteran is asking for.

As Mr. Stark said, “I spend most of every day and every night in a hospital bed. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I’m in this spot in my hospital bed, just waiting for the ax to fall and the end to come. I only wish New York – like Vermont and nine other states – had a law authorizing medical aid in dying.”

Ten states and Washington, D.C., authorize medical aid in dying. A recent Marist poll shows strong support for medical aid in dying among New York state voters, 59-36 percent, including majority support across the geographic, political and racial spectrum.

That’s why Compassion & Choices – leading the effort to improve end-of-life healthcare nationally – is kicking off a grassroots, statewide tour this week in the North Country (with stops in Western New York, Central New York, the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and New York City to follow over the next two months) to urge New York lawmakers to do the right thing in 2023 and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. More information on the tour, and how you can participate, can be found here.

For several years, the Legislature has failed to provide this compassionate option for dying New Yorkers. This statewide tour will ensure that newly elected and returning lawmakers hear from their constituents in their home districts about this important issue. Our goal is to make it impossible for lawmakers to continue to turn their backs on suffering far too many New Yorkers face in their final days.”

Dr. Diana Barnard, who’s practice specializes in hospice and palliative care in Middlebury, VT, where she also treats patients who live in nearby Northern New York talked about the benefit of the law in Vermont and how she has to treat her New York patients differently than she treats her Vermont patients.

“Vermont’s medical aid-in-dying law has eased the suffering of numerous terminally ill Vermonters over the last nine years. The law’s residency requirement prevents me from providing my non-resident patients – and we treat many – with care consistent with their values and wishes at one of the most important moments in their lives. It also harms my ability to provide them with the same medical standard of care that I provide for my Vermont patients,” Dr. Barnard said.

Enough is enough. It’s time for the Legislature to stop ignoring the wishes of New Yorkers. It’s time for the Legislature to ease the suffering for Ray Stark and the many other New Yorkers who face similar circumstances as they approach the end of their lives.

The State Legislature has ignored the issue for too long as I’ve watched countless New Yorkers – including dozens of advocates in our campaign over the last eight years – die while suffering needlessly. No more ducking this issue. We will keep knocking on legislators’ doors – be they in Albany or their districts – until they do the right thing and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

Corinne Carey is Senior Campaign Director for NY/NJ for Compassion & Choices.