NY lawmakers propose medical aid in dying legislation

The bill would allow terminally ill individuals who have less than six months to live the chance to take medication to end their lives (Provided photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - People from across the state shared emotional stories in Albany of their pain and suffering and how they want to spare their families from seeing them die of cancer or other terminal illnesses.

Susan Rahn of Rochester cried as she shared her story. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that spread to her spine and ribs.

There is no cure, but she is still receiving treatment until it stops working.

Rahn said she has no idea when her time will come, but she knows she wants to decide when she dies.

Rahn doesn't want her son and other family members to see her as her body is shutting down. She said her gift to her son would be letting him say goodbye to her as she takes medication and falls asleep.

Two New York state lawmakers sponsored the Medical Aid in Dying bill. It would allow terminally ill individuals who have less than six months to live the chance to take medication to end their lives. The new legislation offers safeguards so that it isn't used in the wrong way.

One of those safeguards: A requirement that two doctors verify the patient's diagnosis and that the patient is mentally competent, able to make decisions, and take the medications on their own.

Rahn said she respects critics who call this suicide, homicide or mercy killing.

She urges them to respect the rights of the terminally ill and give them the choice to decide when to die.

Those critics include the Catholic Church. Bishop Salvatore Matano of the Catholic Diocese of Rochester is urging legislators not to pass this bill. He said we need to respect life and not allow vulnerable individuals to end their lives prematurely.

Rahn said she will continue to fight for this and has met supporters like Scott Barraco who are fighting for a different reason.

Barraco lost his girlfriend, Cathy Quinn, to cancer at age 44. He said she wanted nothing more than to die peacefully at home surrounded by her family.

Instead, she suffered a massive seizure and had to be hospitalized.

"It wasn't the way she wanted to go or where she wanted to go," Barraco told 13WHAM News.

He said five other states allow this medical assistance for the terminally ill and he doesn't understand why this should be dictated by zip code.


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