Protecting Bodily Autonomy by Allowing Medical Assistance in Dying

In 1970, when New York lawmakers legalized abortion, 13 Republican senators voted for. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that there is a constitutional right to abortion. Unfortunately, the recent leak draft opinion says the court, now dominated by GOP appointees, could overturn half a century of legal precedent and unseat Roe.

In response to the United States Supreme Court’s draft opinion, New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​correctly concluded: “The right to privacy, the right to autonomy of your body, all of these things are things that I believe, unfortunately, we will have to codify in order for New Yorkers to be well. … So much of the quality of knowing that you have control over your life choices makes such a difference in terms of how you proceed in life.

As a woman with a daughter and granddaughters, I greatly appreciate the urgency for New York lawmakers to protect the bodily autonomy of pregnant women. However, bodily autonomy should not be limited to reproductive rights. It must extend from adulthood to the end of life.

That is why legislators should also take urgent action to protect the bodily autonomy of people with incurable terminal illnesses to decide whether they wish to have the option of peacefully ending intolerable suffering by adopting the Medical Assistance in Dying Act.

To paraphrase Stewart-Cousins, it makes such a difference, if you’re terminally ill, to know that you have life choice control over physician-assisted dying because you’re no longer afraid to die at agony. It’s a choice 11 jurisdictions have authorizedincluding New Jersey.

Unfortunately, I saw both my parents go through prolonged suffering at the end of their lives.

My father, Peter Lacy, died in 1994 of mesothelioma, a aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Although he received the best palliative care and pain relief available, he died in excruciating pain.

Following a series of strokes in 1995, my mother, Edna Calkins Lacy, lost her ability to swallow and needed a feeding tube to stay alive. After consulting with our family, his Methodist minister, Dad’s Catholic priest and the doctors, we decided to remove his feeding tube. For 11 agonizing days, we watched her starve to death.

Passing the Physician-Assisted Dying Act is not just the compassionate thing my former legislative colleagues need to do for their terminally ill constituents who desperately need that option this year or they will suffer unnecessarily at the end of life. It is a politically wise decision.

New York polls show that vast majority of physicians in our state and voters support medical assistance in dying legislation across the geographic, political and racial spectrum. Moreover, a recent poll shows that voters in the Northeast, including New Yorkers, are five times more likely than not vote for a legislative candidate or elected official who sponsors or supports medical assistance in dying legislation.

In short, no one loses elections for supporting the full range of end-of-life care options. This is because it is not a political issue. It is a human question. Everyone dies, no matter where they live, their politics or their race. And no one wants to die with unnecessary suffering.

Obviously bodily autonomy is under attack. It is time for New York lawmakers to stand up to this attack in all its forms. Lawmakers who defend a right to bodily autonomy should defend them all.

Otherwise, bodily autonomy is a convenient and meaningless political slogan.

Janet L. Duprey lives in Peru.