Capitol Notes

Medical Aid in Dying Act faces uphill road to passage in 2021

Support is growing in the state Legislature for a measure that would enable terminally-ill, mentally-competent New Yorkers to legally end their own lives, but the votes aren’t there yet for passage in the Assembly, according to one of the bill’s sponsors.

“I don’t know if it’s something that’s necessarily going to pass the Assembly this year, but I think that if anytime this would be the time in which we’re closer to moving it,” Assemblymember Karines Reyes, a sponsor of the “Medical Aid in Dying Act,” told The Capitol Pressroom.

Traditionally, legislation doesn’t come up for a vote in the Assembly unless there are 76 Democratic members in support of the bill. Reyes, a Bronx Democrat, estimated that the measure likely has close to 60 supporters in her conference, an increase from last year, which she attributed to the influx of new members in the chamber.

The bill had more than 40 sponsors in the 2019-2020 legislative term, but didn’t receive a committee vote – let alone a floor vote – in either house of the Legislature.

“It’s a very controversial issue, and it’s definitely not a partisan issue,” she said. “I think there are members of the majority who don’t feel comfortable with this legislation based on their own personal beliefs.”

Reyes said that providing more information to her Democratic colleagues, including first-hand stories from supporters of the issue, could sway some minds, but she acknowledged that “it’s hard to overcome anybody’s own personal, moral or religious beliefs.”

The most likely road to passage, she predicted, would be with more turnover in the Assembly.

Her own advocacy for the issue stems from her experience as a registered nurse, which cemented her belief in providing this avenue to terminally-ill patients, as has been done in nine other states.

“When I became a legislator and this issue came before us, for me, it was a no brainer, because I knew so many patients who I had been at their bedside in their dying moment, who I know would have wished their death was different,” Reyes said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in 2019 that he would sign the bill if it reached his desk, but has been essentially silent on the issue since then. Reyes said it was disappointing that the governor wasn’t publicly expending his political capital on this issue, but she isn’t surprised that it’s not on his list of top priorities with all the issues on his plate, including the pandemic.

The Capitol Pressroom · Lawmaker’s experience as nurse shapes support for ‘Medical Aid in Dying Act’
◄ Back to News