Personal experience drives lawmaker’s will to pass Medical Aid in Dying bill in New York
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, of Scarsdale, is again fighting for legislation that would allow people with terminal illnesses to end their lives.
She is hopeful, despite opposition over the nine years since she first introduced it. In an interview with News 12, she discussed why the issue has become personal to her.
Paulin's sister, Jane Scheinfeld, fought ovarian cancer and suffered pain in the final weeks of her life.
"When the cancer reoccurred, she was told it was just a matter of time," Paulin said during the Zoom interview.
Paulin sponsored the first version of the bill in 2015, months before her sister died.
"We still remember her crying out in pain, 'When am I going to die already?'" Paulin said. "We still remember her wish for us to be there when she died, and neither were possible."
Paulin's bill would allow people suffering terminal illnesses to end their lives by self-administering a drug. To be eligible, two doctors must examine the patient and conclude the patient is within six months of death and mentally competent.
"It's only available in very limited circumstances for someone who wants to live but they're going to die," Paulin said.
Each time the bill has been introduced, several nonprofits and religious organizations have lobbied intensely against the bill. Paulin said this year she has noticed more support coming activists and lawmakers.
She pointed out that 10 states – including New Jersey – already have similar laws.
"The change has become the norm," she said, "so it's time we do it in New York."
Medical Aid in Dying legislation has been introduced four times before.
Paulin stressed that the criteria are strict. The option to end one's life would only be available to patients who are mentally capable of making the decision and self-administer the drug. The legislation forbids anyone other than the patient to administer the drug.