New York State Bar Association Endorses Medical Aid in Dying Bill: A Step Forward in Compassionate End-of-Life Care

January 26, 2024
5 min
Sam Madison, COO

In a significant move towards ensuring compassionate end-of-life care, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) recently endorsed the Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) bill. This endorsement marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing conversation about individuals' rights to make choices regarding their own deaths. As the discussion surrounding MAID gains momentum, it's crucial to understand the role of advance care planning in facilitating access to this option, the benefits of MAID in improving the dying process, and New York's leadership in advocating for this compassionate approach to end-of-life care. MAID provides a dignified and compassionate option for individuals facing terminal illnesses to die on their own terms. By allowing mentally competent adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request medication to peacefully end their lives, MAID offers relief from prolonged suffering, and allows individuals to maintain autonomy over their bodies and choices. Studies have shown that patients who have access to MAID experience less physical and emotional distress at the end of life, providing comfort to both patients and their loved ones during a challenging time.

Advance care planning plays a vital role in ensuring that individuals who seek MAID have their wishes respected and honored. By engaging in conversations with healthcare providers and loved ones about their end-of-life preferences, individuals can articulate their desires regarding the circumstances under which they would consider MAID as an option. Advanced directives and healthcare proxies empower individuals to make informed decisions about their care, including the option of MAID, should they face a terminal illness with unbearable suffering. Rick Aizpuru, MD, RVT, VP Clinical Solutions at Thanacare, expands on this thought further, "The ultimate expression of the 'right to self-governance or to live one’s life as one sees fit', is the ability for free individuals in society to have the legal access to pathways such as MAID. This is a fundamental human right and a choice which individuals can clearly elucidate in their healthcare directives. In my opinion, this is a right which should not be predicated on the state of one’s residence but guaranteed as part of being an American citizen."

NYSBA's endorsement of the MAID bill exemplifies its commitment to advancing end-of-life care options and respecting individuals' autonomy and dignity. As one of the most populous states in the nation, New York's support for MAID sends a powerful message about the importance of compassionate end-of-life care and the need to expand access to options like MAID nationwide. After conversations with lawyers, doctors, and loved ones, NYSBA cited the many guardrails in place as reason enough to support New York's pending legislation. Said NYSBA President Richard Lewis: “The Task Force on Medical Aid in Dying has worked tirelessly on this issue and produced recommendations that safeguard our most vulnerable populations. Support for medical aid in dying offers both dignity and compassion for those grappling with what can be a very difficult time in their lives.”

Currently, a growing number of states across the United States support MAID in various forms. As of today, ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized MAID, allowing terminally ill patients to request medication to hasten their deaths under specific circumstances. These states include Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, and Montana (where the practice is authorized by court ruling). Additionally, several other states are actively considering legislation to legalize MAID, reflecting the evolving attitudes towards end-of-life care and the recognition of individuals' rights to make decisions about their own deaths. New Yorkers are indebted to Assembly Member Amy Paulin and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal for leading the way. They've long advocated to expand compassionate end-of-life care options in New York and momentum is taking off this session. Sen. Hoylman-Sigal notes: "The momentum is finally on our side and support throughout New York state is growing." Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers and 67% of NY physicians support the legislation, and the New York State Bar Association also voted to support the bill this month.

The New York State Bar Association's endorsement of the MAID bill represents a significant step forward in promoting compassionate end-of-life care and respecting individuals' autonomy and dignity. Through advance care planning, MAID offers a compassionate option for individuals facing terminal illnesses to die with dignity and in control of their own destiny. As momentum grows across the United States, it's essential to continue advocating for policies that prioritize patients' rights and ensure access to a full range of end-of-life care options, including MAID. Thanacare is here to help those who wish to have this conversation and document their advance care planning. Schedule time with us today.