Bill Memos

S.3685 Savino / A.2129 Rosenthal / A.5261 Paulin: In relation to legalizing physician-assisted suicide

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced bills would add a new section of the Public Health Law to allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the express purpose of ending a patient’s life.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes these bills for the reasons outlined below.

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would:

  • Blur longstanding medical, moral and legal distinctions between withdrawing extraordinary medical assistance and taking active steps to destroy human life. One lets people die a natural death; the other is the deliberate and direct act of hastening death.
  • Undermine the physician’s role as healer, forever alter the doctor-patient relationship, and lessen the quality of care provided to patients at the end of life. Patients are best served when medical professionals, together with families and loved ones, provide support and care with dignity and respect, not lethal doses of drugs. The American Medical Association holds a policy position against physician-assisted suicide, which they say is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role” and would be “difficult or impossible to control.”
  • Lead to psychological, financial and other pressures for vulnerable persons to end their lives. In today’s era of health care rationing and cost-cutting, physician-assisted suicide could easily rise to the level of the most acceptable, and even expected, “treatment” for terminal illness. In 1994, Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Life & the Law released a report unanimously rejecting assisted suicide, and cautioned: “No matter how carefully and guidelines are framed, assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and bias that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of society, including health care. The practices will pose the greatest risks to those who are poor, elderly, members of a minority group or without access to good medical care. The growing concern about health care costs increases the risks. This cost consciousness will not be diminished, and may well be exacerbated, by health care reform.”

Rather than assisting suicide, government should be consistent in its efforts to prevent suicide. It is illogical for the state to promote/facilitate suicide for one group of persons — calling the suicides of those with a terminal illness and a specific prognosis “dignified and humane,” while recognizing suicide as a serious statewide public health concern in all other circumstances, and spending enormous resources to combat it.

Tremendous strides are being made by our state in suicide prevention, as evidenced by the State Office of Mental Health’s suicide prevention projects, anti-bullying campaigns in the schools, suicide awareness training in prisons, and even extra safety precautions on bridges to discourage those feeling hopeless and depressed. These efforts, and their consistent message that “Life Is Worth Living,” are undermined by this legislation.

Moreover, the double standard established by these bills is based entirely on disability. Those who are “terminal,” predicted to die within six months, either are, or will become, disabled. They will likely lose their ability to do many of the things they formerly did and will need assistance in daily living. Offering this group of persons suicide assistance, rather than suicide prevention, is discrimination based on disability.

We urge the state to remove barriers and improve access to palliative care and hospice care for those in the final stages of terminal illness. Improved education and training of physicians in pain management, together with appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression, would go a long way toward eliminating calls for suicide among the sick and the dying.

We strongly urge you to oppose these bills.


A.308, Rosenthal: Requiring only one witness to execute a valid health care proxy

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced bill amends the Public Health Law to require only one witness to execute a valid health care proxy in New York State. The current law requires that two witnesses be present.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation.

Similar legislation has already been considered and was vetoed in in 2010 by Governor Paterson. In his veto message (veto no. 6788), the Governor stated that “the elimination of the second witness requirement would make it more likely that a person with nefarious motives could forge another’s name and be the sole witness to the forged document,” thus giving the unlawful agent the power to make decisions “on behalf of the patient, including decisions that could result in death.” The present legislation raises the same concerns of fraud and abuse, particularly in regard to the most vulnerable populations. More


A.4311, Moya / S.1251, Peralta: In Relation to New York State DREAM Act

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would create the New York DREAM Fund Commission and would provide opportunities for immigrant students who meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial aid to assist them attend institutions of higher education.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the New York State DREAM Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

The bill is an attempt to allow young people who have demonstrated a commitment to education and who are of good moral character to access financial aid opportunities without regard to immigration status, and would create a mechanism to raise money for college scholarships for the children of immigrants. Other states have passed similar legislation and New York State, with its history of welcoming immigrants, should be at the forefront of these efforts to support immigrant populations who have contributed so much to the vitality of our state. The chance to earn a higher education degree will allow these immigrant students to realize their potential and make a greater contribution to our economy. More


A.2129, Rosenthal: In relation to legalizing physician-assisted suicide

Memorandum of Opposition

A more recent version of this memo can be found HERE.

The above-referenced bill would add a new section of the Public Health Law to allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the express purpose of ending a patient’s life.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation for the reasons outlined below.

We would note that the title of the legislation itself – the “death with dignity act” — is biased against those persons who allow a natural death to occur, inferring that a natural death is somehow less dignified than assisted suicide. Similarly, language used throughout the legislation references “ending life in a humane and dignified manner,” suggesting that allowing natural death to occur is “inhumane and undignified.” We find this language to be biased and insulting. More


Re: A.506 Paulin / S.7 Lanza In relation to the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act

Memorandum of Support

Take action on this bill HERE.

This legislation, already passed unanimously by the Senate, would increase criminal penalties and facilitate prosecutions of those who buy and sell sex slaves in the human trafficking industry in New York State. The New York State Catholic Conference supports this measure and urges its enactment into law.

Human trafficking is a grave and unacceptable human rights violation of the highest order. It is a horrific crime, often perpetrated against innocent children, most of them female, who are being trafficked for prostitution, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation. More


S.1976, Golden / A.2551, Cusick: In relation to establishing the Education Investment Tax Credit

Memorandum of Support

Take action on this bill HERE.

The above-referenced legislation would generate increased funding for education by enhancing tax benefits for charitable donations to public schools and scholarships programs. The New York State Catholic Conference strongly supports these measures and urges enactment.

One of the greatest challenges facing policy makers and educators is the funding of our education system. School officials, whether in the public school sector or the religious and independent school sector, continuously grapple with rising costs, fluctuating state and federal aid, and an unstable economy. As a result of these ever-changing dynamics, valuable educational programs in public schools are often reduced, eliminated or never actually started and there are insufficient scholarships available for families seeking them. More


Senate Bills 1-8: In relation to safeguarding women in NYS law

Memorandum of Support

Thank your Senator HERE.

The above-referenced bills all passed the Senate unanimously on January 12, 2015. These bills would close various loopholes in current law and make important advancements for women by:

  • assisting victims of domestic violence (S.5 and S.6);
  • ending pregnancy/family discrimination in the workplace (S.4 and S.8);
  • strengthening laws against sex trafficking (S.7);
  • protecting women from sexual harassment (S.2); and
  • safeguarding women from various other forms of discrimination (S.1 and S.3).

The New York State Catholic Conference supports these bills and urges swift approval by the Assembly. More