Different illnesses, outcomes, and, in many cases, end of life, is a driving force for Melissa Milch and her fight to get the Medical Aid in Dying Act in New York state passed.

"I grew up in a household where my dad would come home from work every night and he would have incredibly poignant and important messages and stories to share about the interactions he had with people that were in different stages," said Milch. "I feel my dad my dad's presence every step of the way. His guidance. His voice."

The Medical Aid in Dying Act would allow for mentally competent, terminally ill patients to be able to use medication to aid in dying.

"What patients tell us is, just knowing that the option is available, is liberating this burden from their shoulders," echoed the words of Dr. Robert Milch in a Compassion and Choices campaign video, a co-founder of Hospice Buffalo, who has advocated for his patients’ rights.

But his daughter Melissa says it was her dad who was denied his right to humanely and his own suffering.

"I know that I offer two sides of the experience - my dad being the patient and our family watching him go through this journey, suffering at the end," she said. "It was the ultimate irony."

The torch of advocacy now burns brighter in her hands.

"That's one of the last parts of ownership of your life," said Melissa.

Knowing that there's a new push for the bill means getting the message out from Buffalo to Albany and beyond like Robert before her — and she's far from alone.

Nearby in Buffalo's suburbs is Ethan Millich, a friend whose mother Jennifer suffered a similar fate to Robert's.

"My mom was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma," he said.

Her terminal journey was long and arduous.

"My mom ended up staying in hospice until she passed on March 4, 2022 from the disease and while she was there, she was suffering," Millich said.

Ethan and Melissa now often get together to talk about their shared experiences and advocacy. They’re now two in a growing number of voices that have worked with Compassion & Choices over the last eight years.

"I really feel like this could be the year that New York joins 11 other jurisdictions to allow this compassionate option from the state," said Corrine Carey, who helps coordinate efforts and keep the duo up to speed on the latest details.

"Unfortunately, it takes lawmakers hearing that pain or experiencing that pain themselves," Carey added.

Proponents say you don't need it until you need it and you don't know what's happening until you're in the middle of it.

"Every waking moment, I'm in excruciating pain as we speak," said Anita Cameron, an advocate and minority outreach director for the group 'Not Dead Yet.’

Cameron is very much in the middle of it with multiple disabilities and pain she constantly considers ‘more than a 10.’ For Anita and those opposed to the bill, it’s about something different.

"People aren't dying because they're terminal. They're dying because they're poor," she added. "Because they can't afford to live in poverty because they they're disabled and they can get the services and supports that they knew."

Anita testifies nationwide regularly for the Rochester-based group. They oppose euthanasia as well as the compassionate choice laws — fervently calling them assisted suicide — something first legalized in the Pacific Northwest.

"The Oregon data shows that the top five reasons that people request assisted suicide have to do with disability," said Cameron. "So we're talking loss of autonomy, loss of the ability to do things that they could do before, loss of dignity and feelings of being a burden."

Is there a point where if there were enough guardrails and change that the option is acceptable? Is there even a spot down the line?

"No," she said without hesitation. "And the reason is because the proponents push the laws through, they influence the legislators, they push the laws through and then they go and they expand them."

Anita is not blind to others’ suffering.

"Make no mistake. I have the utmost compassion for people who are in that kind of pain. But the answer is not suicide," she added. "The answer is for people to have access to effective pain management."

While arguments are made for and against the bill, families like the Milchs and Millichs believe they have that momentum and the language in place to give those suffering options.

"When she wasn't able to carry on and advocate, I was able to pick up the torch and carry on and do it, but it's also going to be a sad time because my mom isn't going to be...didn't have the option or the choice to be able to use this and she wasn't there and isn't going to be here to see it get passed."

"This is just another tool in a toolbox to take care of people and to help them and to alleviate suffering," said Melissa.