Weston remarked that assisted suicide, if it were to become legal in New York, could result in insurers simply refusing to pay for expensive treatments and urging patients to opt for death instead.
"There will be a financial incentive for any insurer to make it more difficult to choose an expensive therapy, and easier to choose suicide. Decreased access to therapy is more likely to
affect poor and underinsured people," he said, noting that in Oregon in 2018, about two out of every three people who died by assisted suicide was on a government insurance plan.
Weston echoed the call for better end-of-life care, saying "New Yorkers need better access to hospice and palliative care services," and urging that all physicians have a standard level of training in palliative care.
"Doctor-assisted suicide is the wrong solution to a difficult and complex problem – we need to work towards a better solution," he said.
Neurologist Dr. Matthew Lynch raised concerns that the Medical Aid in Dying Act does not have proper safeguards to prevent abuse and to protect patients.
The bill, Lynch said, "does not ensure that a person's suffering is truly intractable. It is not offering a last resort. This proposed law does not require a person to try hospice or palliative care before receiving a prescription for suicide pills."
"In fact, this bill does not even require a person to be suffering in any way," he added. The text of the bill would allow those with an illness which will "within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months" to end their lives with the help of a doctor.
Lynch also raised his alarm that the bill did not require doctors to undergo any sort of training before they are allowed to "prescribe death." Unlike other controversial medications, such as opioids and medical marijuana, the bill would not require doctors in New York undergo additional training before they are allowed to prescribe life ending drugs.
"Exploring requests for hastened death is a very complicated and time-consuming process that requires skill and experience," said Lynch. "This bill does not ensure doctors would
have that experience."
(Story continues below)
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Unlike similar legislation in Oregon, said Lynch, the proposed law in New York does not have a waiting period or residency requirement. Both of these factors can result in the potential abuse of the law, he explained.
The press conference was organized by the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, which describes itself as "an informal association of many diverse organizations, institutions, agencies and individuals in New York State committed to preventing the legalization of assisted suicide in the state. They include representatives of the following communities: disability rights, patients' rights, health care, hospice care, civil rights, senior rights and various faith-based advocacy organizations."
The rally was led by Kristen Hanson, an anti-assisted suicide advocate. Hanson's husband, JJ, passed away in 2017, after a multi-year battle with brain cancer.