Cuomo backs letting terminally ill seek life-ending drugs


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he would sign legislation allowing people with a terminal illness to seek life-ending medication from a physician.

The Democrat said Tuesday on public radio’s WAMC that he knows the topic is “difficult” for many people and that his support would depend on the details of the legislation.

But he said it’s an issue that elected leaders should address.

Legislation that would require two doctors to sign off on the use of life-ending medication has been introduced for years in Albany but hasn’t received a vote.

Seven states and Washington, D.C., already allow people to seek a doctor’s help in ending their life. Lawmakers in New Jersey passed a similar measure last month, and Gov. Phil Murphy says he will sign the bill.

Diane Coleman is the president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, an organization fighting against aid in dying bills like the one proposed in New York. 

“At a time when we have an aging population, it’s really a deadly mix when we have a for-profit health care system that would really rather expensive people get out of the way,” said Coleman.

She says there’s too much potential for abusive family members to coerce someone into it, and too much incentive for health care providers to push for it, since sick, elderly patients are more costly to them.

Not everyone feels that way though. There are strong advocates on the other side saying this is about personal liberty.

“People who are terminally ill would like to have some agency over this and the end of their own lives and have the ending be a way of their own choosing,” said Bonnie Edelstien, of Death with Dignity, in Albany. 

Doctors like Timothy Quill with URMC say that the medical community is split about 60/40 in favor of the legislation, adding, “most people don’t decide to do that but they like to know they can be helped by us if they’re in a tough spot.”

Quill says this isn’t an issue for most terminally ill patients but could really help those in the minority. 

“Hospice and palliative care solves most of these issues. This is a relatively narrow question for people suffering who don’t have good options,” said Quill.

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