Statement by the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide Opposing Assisted Suicide Proposal

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Albany, NY—Our coalition strongly opposes the so-called Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.995-A/S.2445-A), which would permit assisted suicide in New York State. While proponents position the legislation as “death with dignity” and empowering for people with serious diseases, the sad reality is it would target the most vulnerable among us—people with disabilities, the elderly and people from poor, underinsured communities. Assisted suicide increases the pressure already felt by these groups as they near the end of their life or face a loss of autonomy, are told to “get out of the way” or not to be a “burden” on family members or society in general.

While we represent a variety of constituencies, our coalition is united in the belief that there is nothing undignified by natural death, and that those who are the most vulnerable must be protected from pressure—from insurers, the medical establishment, family, and others—to believe their life is somehow not as valuable as someone who does not live with illness or disabilities.

One only needs to look to our Canadian neighbors to the north to see the dangers of such legislation. Despite promises for strong guidelines and a pledge to only allow access to those who have a few months to live, Canada, in just a few short years, expanded assisted suicide to include people without terminal illnesses and to those with an “intolerable” condition. There are plans in place to expand it further to the mentally ill and even to “mature minors.” Last month, shocking polling in Canada indicated that 27% of the population support assisted suicide as a response to “poverty” and 28% said “homelessness” was an appropriate bar to qualify.

While advocates for the New York legislation point to safeguards, we must note that Canada had these as well before the movement to remove them quickly gained traction. We are under no illusions that the moment advocates for assisted suicide are successful in a critical mass of U.S. states, they too, like their Canadian counterparts, will chip away at so-called safeguards.

For these reasons and more, New York legislators should oppose A.995-A/S.2445-A.

The state of New York ranks last in the country in hospice utilization. Instead of legalizing assisted suicide, the state should work to significantly expand the use of New York’s hospice and palliative care resources. A compassionate society does not treat terminally-ill persons as though their lives are expendable.


Following are statements from a few members of the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide.

Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet (NDY)

“The assisted suicide bill has not advanced in New York, and we’re gratified that legislators have listened to disability advocates’ concerns once again. In states where it’s legal, everyone who dies by assisted suicide is disabled, whether or not they are actually terminal, and their reasons are primarily unmet disability related needs, including the need for in-home personal care. We hope that legislators will continue to recognize the negative impact of insurance issues and provider biases leading to well documented healthcare disparities involving disability, racial and LGBTQ communities. The dangers of medical mistakes and financial pressures in the context of assisted suicide are simply too high.”

Max Rodriguez, Manager of Government Affairs for the Center for Disability Rights (CDR)

“The attempts to legalize assisted suicide, also known as medical aid in dying, pose a grave risk to all, especially those with disabilities. This legislation lacks safeguards, fails to address potential preexisting mental health conditions, and will increase abuse for an already vulnerable community. While the messaging supporting this legislation has been reduced to the need to avoid pain at the end of life, studies have shown that pain is not a predominant reason for people to participate in assisted suicide. The leading reasons individuals opt for assisted suicide are not being able to engage in activities, the loss of autonomy, the fear of losing control of bodily functions, the perceived loss of dignity, and the fear of becoming a burden on family and friends. These issues are all fundamentally rooted in our society’s ableist response to disability which can be addressed in a manner that doesn’t result in the needless deaths of disabled New Yorkers. The argument that assisted suicide is needed instead of increased access to home and community-based services and pain management in noninstitutionalized and nonhospital settings for end-of-life care is misleading, wrong, and ableist. The Center for Disability Rights will continue to work with our partners to defeat these attempts as we work to expand the options that allow Disabled New Yorkers to live with dignity.”

Alex Thompson, Director of Advocacy at the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL)

“It’s unconscionable that New York State would consider allowing suicide as a medical treatment option. This would put the lives of disabled people in this state at grave risk. Instead of providing more support to people navigating the many challenges of living with a disability and a health system that is filled with problems, we’re offering people death. We have seen people with disabilities offered death instead of options to live in other places with assisted suicide laws and we continue to see in New York an inability to provide all the supports needed for people with disabilities, including an adequately funded home care system and basic accessible health screenings.”

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