BUFFALO, N.Y. -- For nearly a decade, New York state Assemblymember Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, has backed legislation to allow terminally ill patients to request pharmaceuticals for the purpose of speeding up their deaths and providing legal protections to the physicians who prescribe them.
Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C. have passed something similar.
"It's time to get it done for our families for our loved ones," Paulin said. "New Jersey just got it done. If New Jersey can do it, New York has got to do it."
State Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman-Sigal, D-Manhattan, also said the bill is one of his top priorities this session.
"The momentum is finally on our side and support throughout New York state is growing. Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers and 67% of New York physicians support legislation allowing people to choose their own end of life fast and just this month a New York State Bar Association task force on this issue endorsed our bill," he said.
This week the full state bar backed the bill for the first time. It continues to face vocal and organized opposition though from the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, which includes members like the Catholic Conference and the Center for Disability Right.
The center's Government Affairs Manager Max Rodriguez noted Paulin as the chair of the Assembly Committee on Health may be able to move it forward.
"I think she wields a lot of power and I think that's definitely a big reason why they might be able to push it this year," Rodriguez said.
He said opponents continue to have the same concerns about the legislation. Rodriguez said those concerns include that states that have passed it have not adequately tracked abuse, inequities in health care could impact who utilize it, doctors often underestimate the quality of life of people with disabilities and a requirement people have been given a reasonable prognosis of six months or fewer to live isn't good enough.
"Unfortunately a lot of those measures aren't finite," he said. "Everybody has heard of cases where a doctor could give you a six-month prognosis and that person could live for another 10 years. It's not completely unheard of."
Paulin believes there are adequate safety measures in place including a patient must make both an oral and written request, that patient may rescind the request at any time, and physicians may determine if a patient lacks decision-making capacity.
"If they have anyone in their family or they know anyone in the community to talk to them about what they're going through because it will persuade everyone," she said.
Paulin said the bill is not about suicide but for people who want to live and won't.