Legislation that would authorize people with terminal illnesses to request life-ending drugs from physicians is again before state lawmakers in Albany, though top lawmakers are either skeptical about its chances or firmly opposed.
Undeterred, several supporters gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday, hoping stories of loved ones lost to painful illness might convince lawmakers to add New York to the list of five states that already allow physician-assisted suicide.
The visit marked a special anniversary for Janet Green, of Poughkeepsie, whose partner of 26 years, Harry Haight, died a year ago following a battle with brain and bone cancer.
"His pain became unbearable," she said. "I could do nothing to ease his suffering. He often kept saying, 'Please, help me die.' It was agonizing to watch the man I loved suffer so much."
The bill before the Assembly and the Senate would allow terminally ill people to request life-ending drugs from physicians. Two doctors would have to certify that a patient is competent to make the decision and is suffering from a terminal illness, and physicians could refuse to participate for any reason. Two witnesses would be required to be present when a patient completes a written request.
The proposal has been introduced before but hasn't received a vote by the full Legislature. Last year, for the first time, it passed a key Assembly committee, encouraging supporters. But the measure still has very vocal opponents, including Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island.
"This is a very, very, very sensitive subject," he said Tuesday. "I don't support physician-assisted suicide."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said the measure must receive rigorous scrutiny before it's ready for a vote.
"I'm not sure it can or will be done," he said.
Several groups including the Catholic Church and advocates for disabled state residents oppose the measure. They worry people with mental illnesses might seek life-ending drugs or others might pressure elderly relatives to end their lives to receive inheritances sooner.
Colorado, Washington, Vermont, California, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have laws on the books allowing terminally ill people to request life-ending medication from physicians.