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Press-Republican: A right to die

By Robin Caudell, 1/25/17

PLATTSBURGH — Amanda Cavanaugh was among the supporters of Monday’s Medical Aid in Dying Act for 2017 (S.3151/A.2383), which was reintroduced to New York lawmakers in Albany.

“The first step in the state of New York is to pass through the Assembly Health Committee,” said Cavanaugh, who is the outreach manager for Compassion & Choices New York.

“Once it’s approved, then it goes to the Codes Committee. Then, it will go to the full assembly for a vote.”

The bill’s prime sponsors, Sen. Diane Savino (IDC-Staten Island) and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester, spoke to the media as well as Rochester resident Susan Rahn, who is a mother living with terminal breast cancer.

Rahn spoke about her illness and the bill’s importance.

“I don’t want my son to watch me linger, dying in a bed for what could be days or weeks,” she said.

“I won’t allow that memory to erase all the happy memories we share of our time together. People don’t have to agree with my choice to have aid in dying as an option but they should respect it. Now is the time for the Legislature and the Governor to provide this option for me and for every other New Yorker.”

Other supporters at Monday’s press conference included Compassion & Choices New York Campaign Director Corinne Carey, Assembly Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).


On Sunday, Cavanaugh will speak about the bill at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Plattsburgh.

At 2 p.m., there will be a screening of “How to Die in Oregon,” followed by a discussion.

The film was the winner of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Award, the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at 2011 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and it was a selection at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival.

The film is a walk through of the options for the terminally ill in Oregon.

“Oregon was the first state that authorized medical aid in dying in 1997,” Cavanaugh said.

“Death with Dignity is the name of the law. We’re going to have a discussion about the pending legislation in New York. ”

The Colorado-based Compassion & Choices is running the right-to-die campaign in New York.

“Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest organization that works on end-of-life issues,” Cavanaugh said.

“We advocate for different legislation to make end-of-life care better on both a state and federal level. We also have programs for terminally ill people. We have an end-of-life consultation program.”


Former Republican Assemblywoman Janet Duprey will be in attendance on Sunday.

Last month, she penned “Medical Aid in dying should be a compassionate option,” which appeared in various media outlets including the Times Union.

In her commentary, she detailed a familial end-of-life story.

“My father died in 1995 from mesothelioma. He was an old-school ‘tough guy,’ but at the end he experienced excruciating pain, even with the tremendous care he was given in hospice. Even the morphine he was prescribed wasn’t touching the pain. As too many of us know, watching a love some suffer is too much to bear.

“Five years later, my mother died after a series of strokes. She lost the ability to swallow, and the only thing that was keeping her alive was a feeding tube. My mom had lost her will to live.

“We spent a lot of time talking about what she could do. After a lot of time, and a lot of tears, my mom asked me if I would support her decision to remove her feeding tube. I told her I would support her, and the next day she had it removed. My daughter and I sat helplessly and watched my mom starve for an agonizing 11 days. When the end finally came, my daughter and I were there, holding her hand. I can tell you from experience, forcing a person and their loved ones to live through that kind of torture isn’t something we should be proud of as a society.

“I’m Catholic, and like millions of other Catholics in New York, I feel we should give people the option to make a choice. People should have the right to choose their own destiny.”


Oregon’s Death with Dignity law turns 20 this year and fewer than 1,000 people have opted for aid-in-dying medication.

“We have been on the ground in all states where legislation has passed for Medial Aid in Dying,” Cavanaugh said.