Supporters of euthanasia in New York hope for action

Stacey Gibson’s husband Sid died in 2014 after a long battle with a rare and painful neurological condition.

“He really wanted to end his life, not because he wanted to die,” she said. “This was a man who wanted to live, but his body betrayed him.”

But for Gibson, a Hudson Valley resident, it was eventually apparent that her husband could not go on.

“He said, ‘I just realized I’m never going to be able to dance at our granddaughter’s wedding,” Gibson said. “That’s when I knew his spirit was gone and it was the end.”

Supporters of a measure that would allow terminally ill people to end their lives say the bill is gaining ground in the legislature. Opponents fear this will make vulnerable people less safe.

Gibson was among supporters Tuesday at the state Capitol calling for passage of a bill that would allow people with terminal illnesses and life expectancy of less than six months to have a doctor prescribe medication so they can end their lives.

Supporters are hoping that the newly appointed chair of the assembly’s health committee, Amy Paulin, can win the passage. She also brings her personal experience to the topic.

“Every time I stand here I do it with emotion and I remember the words my sister said to me on her deathbed: When will I die?” said Pauline.

The measure has long stalled in New York, but advocates point to Oregon’s use of euthanasia to have safeguards that have prevented abuse. Proponents hope Paulin’s new role as top Democrat on the assembly’s Health Committee panel, along with a growing list of pro-legislators, will push the bill forward.

But not everyone is convinced. Not Dead Yet’s Julie Farrar said the legislation sends the wrong message, particularly to people with disabilities.

Farrar believes the measure is essentially telling people, “We’re all cheaper dead, we’re all less expensive if we don’t need treatment at all.”

Instead, Farrar said lawmakers should consider ways to expand health care and assisted living for vulnerable people.

“That makes living with a terminal illness very scary when you don’t have access to the services that you need,” she said.

Stacey Gibson, on the other hand, would like the option her husband never had. She was diagnosed with cancer and is currently stable.

“But I don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” Gibson said. “I want to make sure I have as many options on the table as possible when the time comes.”