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NYS Legislature reviewing medical aid in dying bill

Life saving equipment is stored inside a parked ambulance.
Emergency car interior the rescue of life

New York State's Legislature is reviewing a bill to approve medical aid in dying, which would apply to people suffering from a terminal illness who only have six months to live.

It comes with numerous safeguards such as requiring two physicians to approve a person's request.

Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C. have medical aid-in-dying laws.

Corinne Carey - senior campaign director for Compassion & Choices in New York and New Jersey - described some of the challenges to getting this bill passed.

"Quite frankly, medical aid in dying is a life and death issue," said Carey. "And, issues like this require intense deliberation on the part of lawmakers. We have an added challenge with this bill that lawmakers are really hesitant to talk about death and dying for a lot of different reasons."

Opponents have employed terms like 'assisted suicide' to describe it which has ratcheted up the heated rhetoric on both sides, but there's growing support for this kind of legislation.

A 2022 Compassion & Choices poll finds 49% of nurses personally support medical aid in dying, while 57% support it professionally.

The bill is currently under review in the Assembly Health Committee.

Ondi Timoner has been a documentary filmmaker for 30 years. Her latest film, Last Flight Home, began as a family project when her father - Eli - chose California's end of life option.

At that point Timoner said she saw him go from a despondent and hopeless person to someone at peace - with a sense of agency, and said those last few weeks greatly impacted those who interacted with him.

"No one was unchanged by the experience, and it was a very profound and sacred and beautiful time for everyone," said Timoner. "It wasn't scary. And, the process of making the film, and sharing the film has made people less scared of the dying process, and more able to talk about it."

She added that every year New York's medical aid in dying law isn't passed, families suffer needlessly by watching loved ones go through great pain.

Overall, Timoner said she hopes people come away from the film understanding what losing loved ones can look like.