Medical Aid in Dying (MAID)

According to the New York State Bar Association, “medical aid in dying is a medical practice that has been adopted in ten US jurisdictions (WA, MT, VT, CA, CO, D.C., HI, ME, NJ, NM) that allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request from their doctor a prescription for medication they can decide to self-ingest to die peacefully in their sleep.” New York’s MAID law will be considered by the legislature this year.

Protections in the proposed law include (1) a requirement that two physicians confirm the person is terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less months to live, (2) the individual is informed of palliative care and hospice options, (3) there is a mandatory mental health evaluation if either physician has any concerns about the person’s mental capacity, (4) the request be in writing witnessed by two people, neither of whom stand to benefit from the person’s estate, and (5) anyone attempting to coerce a person will face criminal prosecution.

MAID is inextricably tied to hospice and palliative care, of which a core value is patient dignity and autonomy. New York ranks last in the country for hospice utilization due to health providers failing to provide information and counseling on these end of life options. Options will now be required to be discussed under a provision requiring “informed consent”.

Public and organizational support for MAID is widespread. Gallup reports that 74% of US adults believe that doctors should be allowed to end the life of a patient with an incurable disease “by some painless means”. By a margin of 50% to 26% New York physicians support MAID.

Taking into account the sensibilities of those health professionals who oppose MAID (formerly known as “physician assisted suicide”) on moral or religious grounds, by allowing them to opt out without penalty, the proposed law will offer an end to needless end of life pain and suffering for countless New Yorkers.

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