Aid-In-Dying Legislation Combined
The legislative sponsors of a measure designed to provide for end-of-life medication for the terminally ill have combined competing versions of the legislation into one bill, Sen. Diane Savino on Monday said at a news conference.
“We now have one bill in both houses,” Savino said. “We have a same as. We don’t have competing versions of the legislation which was confusing for advocates and for the opposition, quite frankly.”
The measure, multiple versions of which have been proposed and introduced in the Legislature over the last several years, has been met with stiff resistance by social conservatives and the Catholic Church as well as advocates for the disabled.
Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island, said the combined measure for the Senate and Assembly ironed out some differences between the competing versions based on a series of conversations with supporters who wanted a streamlined measure.
“My bill was more the Oregon model. We just ironed areas we didn’t think they made sense,” she said. “There isn’t that much of a difference.”
Supporters of aid-in-dying legislation have pointed to a variety of safeguards in the measure designed to protect the terminally ill make the decision as to whether to end of their life. The medication is self-administered by the patient.
The measure allows for narrow qualifications for patients and requires that two physicians confirm the terminal prognosis. Patients must also be referred to a mental health professional for evaluation if considered necessary by a doctor.
At least two witnesses must also attest the terminally ill patient’s request is being made on a voluntary basis.
Still, the press conference on Tuesday on the third floor of the Capitol outside of the Senate chambers was attended by opponents of the legislation. Clad in neon pink t-shirts from a coalition of disability rights groups called Not Dead Yet, critics of aid-in-dying policies say it could lead to the cheaper alternative of ending the life of a vulnerable patient rather than caring for them.
“The bill doesn’t account for that,” said Todd Vaarwerk, a Buffalo resident. “The bill says OK, you can affirmatively do this. We believe people with disabilities will be the primary people affected by this legislation and we’ve got years of evidence to support that.”
Savino told reporters after the news conference she understood the concerns of disability advocates, but insisted they were unfounded.
“We generally don’t like to talk about death. As a society we all want to think we’re going to live forever,” she said. “There’s a genuine fear of the unknown. I understand the concerns of disability rights advocates. They feel this is an effort to devalue them as humans and nothing could be further from the truth.”
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