Legislative Hearing On Aid-In-Dying Bill Attracts Big Crowds
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Hundreds of people on both sides of the debate over physician-assisted suicide traveled to Albany on Monday for a hearing on legislation that would allow people with a terminal illness to request life-ending medication from a doctor.
The measure has been discussed for years in the state Capitol but faces significant legislative opposition and isn't expected to pass before lawmakers adjourn their session in June. But supporters insist they're gaining momentum as other states adopt similar laws. Colorado, Washington, Vermont, California, Oregon, Montana, Hawaii and Washington D.C. allow people to seek a doctor's help in ending their life.
Under the proposal, which is based on Oregon's 21-year-old law, a person with a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months or less could obtain life-ending medication if at least two doctors agree with their prognosis and determine they are of sound mind.
Supporters say people have the right to die with dignity instead of suffering needlessly. Barbara Thomas of Saratoga Springs testified about her husband Bob, who died of brain cancer in 2012 after 55 years of marriage. Bob loved his life, she said, but before he died he pleaded with her to help him end his suffering.
"Every day that passes without legislation that permits medical aid in dying is a day that is filled with unnecessary anguish, pain and suffering for people with fatal illnesses and for their families," she said.
Opponents, including the Catholic Church, argue a physician-assisted suicide law could be exploited, either by depressed individuals or by uncaring relatives, doctors or insurance companies who urge elderly or disabled people to end their lives.
"The disabled community is concerned with losing our chance to live," said Kathryn Carroll, a policy analyst at the Center for Disability Rights.
A second hearing on the bill is scheduled for May 3 in New York City.