Fight continues to legalize Aid in Dying in New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – One man continues his push to legalize Medical Aid in Dying in New York State after the state’s highest court dismissed a case on the subject.

The New York Court of Appeals dismissed a case Thursday that was filed by three terminally ill patients in 2015. They sought a court order to allow their physician to prescribe them a lethal dose of medication to help them die.

Scott Barraco is an advocate for Medical Aid in Dying. He was personally touched by someone in a similar circumstance.

“Not having this law robbed her of the end of her life,” he said.

Barraco’s girlfriend, Catherine, or Cathy, as she was known by friends, battled tongue cancer for years. She had to live with a feeding tube and battled the ongoing pain of the cancer and the frustration of not being able to taste or smell anything.

She began to explore her options when her doctor told her there was nothing more to be done and she only had a short time to live.

“She wanted to make the most out of her time, and she spent a large amount of her limited time worried about the horrible death she might have,” Barraco said.

The pain eventually got so bad that Cathy started to search different ways she could end her life. Barraco wasn’t sure what he would find each day he would go visit her.

“She didn’t want to make a mess, so she thought about climbing in a garbage bag and doing that,” he recalled. “These are the kinds of things where, if Medical Aid in Dying were available, people wouldn’t have to go through when they’re faced with this.”

It was until Barraco found Cathy on the floor one day after she attempted to end her life that her physician told them about Aid in Dying, or as critics call it, Physician Assisted Suicide. The option, however, is not available in New York.

“She was going to pick a date and stop eating and drinking, and unfortunately, the day before that went into effect, she suffered grand mal seizures,” Barraco said.

Cathy passed away before she could carry out her plan, but Barraco said this is why he is continuing to fight for her – so others won’t have to go through a similar pain.

Even though the case, Myers v. Schneiderman, was tossed out by the court of appeals, Barraco said he plans to keep pushing for legislation to legalize Aid in Dying.

“And I would never try to impose what Cathy wanted to do on somebody else,” he said. “It’s just not right for them to impose what they think is right on Cathy.”

Adam Prizio is the manager of Government Affairs for Center for Disability Rights Inc. He was one of the lawyers who worked to uphold the ban.

He explained some of the dangers he believes can come from legalizing Aid in Dying, especially when it comes to those with disabilities.

“It’s not about pain nearly as much as it’s about people who now have a disability, who now need some help, feeling like a burden, feeling like they don’t want to live with a disability,” he said.

Prizio believes that when it comes down to the wording of a bill to legalize Aid in Dying, there is no middle ground when it comes to differentiating between those who are terminally ill and those with disabilities.

“They go through with it, nobody would know,” he said. “There’s no mechanism to review or investigate and be sure that someone hasn’t been coerced.”

Of the original three plaintiffs that filed to legalize Aid in Dying in 2015, two died before the decision was made to dismiss the case.

LEARN MORE:

Cathy’s blog on her battle with cancer

End of Life Choices New York advocates decriminalizing Medical Aid in Dying

Not Dead Yet is a national group that opposes legalizing Medical Aid in Dying

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