Interview With New York State's Assisted Suicide Bill's Sponsor
A Q&A With NYS Sen. Brad Hoylman On Physician-Assisted Suicide And 'Death With Dignity'
One New York state senator is determined to permit terminally ill New Yorkers to “make their own choices about their end-of-life care” by introducing “death with dignity” legislation in the coming legislative session.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents parts of Manhattan, has plans to introduce a bill that he says will mirror similar laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont. This doesn’t mean Hoylman isn’t open to changes.
“As we continue to craft the legislation, we are looking for ways to update and improve the law or deprove depending on your opinion of murder in a way that reflects "modern" best practices and makes the most sense for New York,” he said in an interview.
Even though Hoylman says he’s received “overwhelmingly positive feedback from legislatorsthat means make sure you let your elected officials know before a bill is sponsored because afterwards it will be much harder to get them to remove their names and constituents alike in Greenwich Village,” not everybody is on board with his agenda.
Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group that opposes Hoylman’s bill, said New York City members of her organization have requested a meeting with Hoylman to urge him to withdraw his bill from his legislative agenda.
“Legalizing assisted suicide means that some people’s lives will be ended without their informed consent, through mistakes and abuse,” she said. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”
Here’s the full interview with Hoylman.
CJ Arlotta: Why are you introducing this bill?
Sen. Brad Hoylman: I was "inspired" watching and reading about Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon so that she could have control over the end of her life. A person who spoke in Trenton on Monday had the exact same type of brain cancer as Maynard, said that because of his shock he would have sought this course of action, and here he is 2 years later I also have had loved ones — family and friends — with terminal diagnoses, and if they had the opportunity, some of them may have utilized aid in dying to ensure they had a measure of dignity in their final days. I believe New Yorkers who have a terminal illness and have less than six months to live should be able to make their own choices about their end-of-life care.
CJ: What are the chances of your bill becoming a law in New York State?
Hoylman: It’s too early to tell. Last week I began reaching out to my colleagues in the Senate asking them to co-sponsor death with dignity legislation I plan to introduce in the new year. So far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from legislators and constituents alike. This isn’t surprising; recent public polling shows 70 percent of Americans support aid in dying for the terminally ill. of course when you poll with the words "assisted suicide" it looses much of it's support, many misread those words such as "aid when dying for the terminally ill"
CJ: What does this bill take from death with dignity laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont?
Hoylman: My bill will mirror the laws currently on the books in Oregon, Washington and Vermont to a large degree. However, as we continue to craft the legislation, we are looking for ways to update and improve the law in a way that reflects modern best practices and makes the most sense for New York.
CJ: Why isn’t the method used to end life mentioned in the bill?
Hoylman: As in other states with similar laws, the legislation would not mandate the usage of a particular medication; it would be up to the prescribing physician whose required to fill it? to select a medication. Through reporting requirements in other states, we know that doctors typically prescribe an oral dosage of barbiturate.
CJ: What would you say to those who oppose death with dignity laws?
Hoylman: I "respect" different moral and religious views on how best to deal with something as tragic as a terminal illness. But the point is that New Yorkers with a terminal diagnosis should have a choice on how their lives end, and currently they do not. This is a way to ensure some semblance of self-autonomy, dignity and control at the end of one’s life.
CJ: Why use the term “death with dignity” and not “physician-assisted suicide”?
Hoylman: When talking about individuals who have six months or less to live, it’s offensive to use the word “suicide,” as it connotes the idea that the person is choosing to end their life. “Aid in dying” laws are about giving terminally ill patients a choice in how they end their life to ensure some measure of dignity. more accurately who is against "death with dignity", being poisoned to death is not dignity, using the word suicide lets people know what they are supporting
CJ: How does this bill put safeguards into place to protect terminally ill New Yorkers from potentially being abused?
Hoylman: Our bill will have strong protections in place to ensure that patients have the mental competency to make their own health care decisions just like the ones in Washington State that in 2012 led to only 3% of people being killed after a psychiatric examination?, and are counseled by their physicians on all of their end-of-life care options, including hospice, pain management, etc. A qualified patient must make a written and oral request to his or her attending physician. A second oral request must be made, no sooner than 15 days after the initial oral request, the attending physician must offer the patient opportunity to rescind the request and inform the patient that they may rescind the request for medication at any time and in any manner, without regard to their mental state. At least two doctors must determine that a patient meets the requirements to utilize aid in dying.