Nearly 60% of New York voters support the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A.995 Paulin/S. 2445 Hoylman-Sigal), according to a recent Siena College poll.

The act would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults who have been given six months or less to live to take their own lives with a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs.

But among the 30% of voters who do not support the bill, there is one group that argues the bill’s safeguards are inadequate.

Advocates for people living with disabilities are concerned about people being pressured into the procedure. 

“The biggest concern is, is this really a choice?” Alex Thompson, director of advocacy with the New York Association on Independent Living, told Capital Tonight. “We’ve seen in Canada and other places where this is legalized, where instead of people being offered support to be in the community and still have a level of autonomy, they are offered assisted suicide.”

According to the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, the guardrails in the New York bill are stringent. 

When asked if there are any additional safeguards that could be included in the bill that would make it more acceptable to the disability rights community, both Max Rodriguez, manager of government affairs with the Center for Disability Rights, and the New York Association on Independent Living’s Thompson said no.

“Really, there is nothing to add. To think there are final adequate safeguards is misleading,” Rodriguez said.

“I don’t think that we’re really in a place where we can support this bill. There are just too many concerns around this related to the way our for-profit health care system works,” Thompson reiterated.

The Association on Independent Living's opposition memo to the bill states that the disability community is deeply concerned about coercion and abuse.

“A.995/S.2445 does not prevent a coercive family member or caregiver from doctor shopping with the individual to find a physician who will provide the fatal drug. There is nothing in the proposed legislation which would prevent an abusive caregiver or family member from steering the individual toward physician assisted suicide, witnessing the request form, picking up the lethal dose, and even administering the drug,” the memo states. 

Rodriguez is also concerned about tracking the lethal medication once a prescription is filled by a pharmacy. A 2022 report from Oregon states that the “ingestion status” for over 100 patients was “unknown."

Two weeks ago, Capital Tonight was joined by state Assemblyman Al Taylor and Jules Netherland, a woman who has been given a terminal breast cancer diagnosis. They discussed their advocacy for the Medical Aid in Dying Act.