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Death with dignity bill draws supporters, opponents at conference

Death with dignity bill draws supporters, opponents at conference

New York State introduced a "Death with Dignity" bill that would make the state the sixth in the country to allow terminally ill adults to end their own lives with prescribed lethal medication. If passed, those with six months or less would be able to take a lethal dose of medication prescribed by a doctor, to end their lives.

The topic is drawing so much attention that a conference was held Saturday at St. John Fisher about what the legislation would mean for New Yorkers. A panel presented their viewpoints and answered questions the community asked.

Stephanie Woodward, the Director of Advocacy at The Center for Disability Rights said she watched her father die for 15 days after a traumatic brain injury. She said he died peacefully and on his own and would not have wanted it any other way. "Sometimes dying seems like the better option. With suffering there may be a need to make death faster, but I don't think that's the case," she shared. Woodward said her last days with her father were her best.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Richard Seeger was on the panel at St. John Fisher College on Saturday. He said he understands why there is such a push for this legislation in the state of New York, "The motivation for pursuing something like this comes out of a sense of compassion and concern for people in our society who are suffering. I'm sympathetic to that stage in life. We're all going to get there, hopefully." He said the conference was a terrific opportunity to understand the legislation, "Help us understand the issues in greater depth and helps us communicate community wide. These issues are very relevant for everybody in our community, either in your own personal life or your family's life, so we all need to be aware of these issues."

Burke Balch is the Director of Powel Center for Medical Ethics and said the legislation is flawed. He said we need alternatives, not just a bill allowing physician assisted suicide, "Even when people talk about the hard cases such as terminal illness what you have to understand, is that the reason individuals feels this need is because we haven't given them adequate assistant with the suffering they're experiences." He added, "We need to provide positive alternates to address the real problems to help people address why life is not worth living."

New York's "Death with Dignity" bill was modeled after Oregon's Death with Dignity law and requires two witnesses to be present for the end of life. The patient would be able to choose when and where the medication would be administered.

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