By Kaitlyn Schaeffer
After receiving a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon, a state that has a “Death With Dignity” law. She passed away in November of last year, surrounded by family and friends.
Her story has inspired two New York state lawmakers to introduce a “death with dignity” bill that would make the state the sixth in the country to allow people suffering from terminally ill diseases the option of ending their own lives. In addition to Oregon, Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, and Washington have “death with dignity” laws.
State Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) spent time with Maynard’s family last month, including her widower, Dan Diaz.
“Meeting Mr. Diaz only strengthened my commitment to helping every New Yorker gain access to the option of aid in dying,” Savino said. “I was honored to meet Brittany’s family and to learn how this option improved her well-being during her illness, as well as how having to move to another state only made her final months that much harder… The option to end one’s suffering when facing the final stages of a terminal illness should be a basic human right, and not dependent upon one’s zip code.”
Mr. Diaz contends that Oregon’s “death with dignity” act allowed his wife “to focus on living her last days to the fullest, rather than living in fear of dying in agony from terminal brain cancer.”
New York state Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) said that Maynard’s story moved him to co-sponsor the legislation introduced by Sen. Savino
“I’ve had two close friends who had terminal diagnoses and I feel like people deserve a choice when they’re in that situation,” he said. “It potentially gives them great empowerment over their disease.”
The New York “death with dignity” bill requires that two physicians confirm the diagnosis as terminal, and that two witnesses attest to the voluntariness of the patient’s wish to die. These measures will protect doctors from criminal and civil liability should a patient elect to receive a lethal dose of medication.
Lawmakers don’t expect a speedy vote on the legislation; these issues are very controversial, and will likely be contested by conservative and religious groups.
Hoylman said that Governor Andrew Cuomo has not indicated whether he supports the bill.
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