Bill Memos

S.5814, Bonacic / A.5261-B, Paulin: In relation to legalizing physician-assisted suicide

Memorandum of Opposition

S.5814- A.5261B Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide (PDF)

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 bill 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 this bill 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 this legislation.

A.2872-A, Markey / S.63-A, Hoylman: In relation to civil claims regarding child sexual abuse

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced bill would create a one-year window for the filing of decades-old claims of sexual abuse by a minor against businesses, not-for-profits and religious organizations. Sexual abuse is a crime and a detestable assault on the dignity of the human person, made even worse when the victim is a child. The Catholic Church in the United States has zero tolerance for sexual abuse of children, and the Bishops of New York State stand in unanimous and unwavering support of comprehensive public policy to prevent sexual abuse, punish offenders effectively and fairly, and ensure justice for survivors. Sexual abuse is a human tragedy, a major social problem, a serious crime and an egregious sin. Our entire community shares a moral obligation to expose and eradicate this evil wherever it exists.

We strongly disagree, however, with both the focus of this legislation and its selective application. For this reason, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes it. More

A.1142-A, Jaffee: In relation to reproductive health care decisions

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation aims to prevent employers – whether private, non-profit, for-profit or religious – from exercising their religious freedom in the businesses they operate. For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.

The fundamental purpose of this legislation is to remove any possibility of an employer making employment-related decisions based upon their religious beliefs. In the area of “reproductive health decisions,” the bill could therefore have the effect of repealing current protections in New York law (e.g., Executive Law Section 296[11]) that permit religious employers to take employment-related actions based on the religious principles upon which they are established or maintained. More

A.1248-A, Fahy / S.4920-A, Farley: In relation to authorizing religious cemetery corporations to reacquire abandoned lots

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would allow religious cemetery corporations to reacquire abandoned lots, plots, and parts thereof after an extensive title search and approval by a Supreme Court. This legislation also includes protections that would prohibit corporations from reacquiring abandoned lots if such action would violate any burial requirements of that cemetery sponsor’s religious faith.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this legislation. More

A.219, Abinanti: In relation to establishing the Direct Support Professional Credential Pilot Program

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would establish the direct support professional credential pilot program to be administered by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities for a period of three years. We support this proposed legislation as an important step in the right direction.

The intent of the legislation is to promote workforce recruitment and retention efforts, and enhance competency of direct support professionals in the developmental disabilities field. There is a growing demand for well-trained direct support professionals across a wide range of human service sectors. The job of a direct support professional is a difficult one, but it can also be a satisfying and rewarding one. This requires a workforce that is adequately trained, properly supervised, and appropriately compensated.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the Direct Support Professional Credential Pilot, and urges enactment of this legislation as a first step in recognizing the importance of this “pillar” of quality service. More

S.24, DeFrancisco / A.1131, Perry: In Relation to establishing the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would establish the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct. This Commission would be modeled after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and would establish acceptable standards and reasonable accountability for prosecutors as they carry out their duties and responsibilities.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the establishment of the State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation. More

S.4615, Lanza / A.4725, Colton: In relation to teacher tax deduction for school supplies

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced bill provides a personal income tax deduction up to $500 a year for school supplies paid for out of-pocket by elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and other personnel in public and non-public schools.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this legislation. More

A.3838-A, Aubry / S.979-A, Montgomery: In relation to providing inmates with the opportunity to obtain a General Equivalency Diploma

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would require the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to establish academic programs to prepare inmates to complete the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and allow them the opportunity to complete a GED prior to release.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this legislation.

Obtaining a GED while at DOCCS has a particularly positive impact on return rates to DOCCS’ facilities. Inmates who earned a GED while at DOCCS returned to custody at a rate of 32% compared to 37% of inmates with no degree. More

A.1826, Gunther / S.1372, Bonacic: In relation to real property tax exemptions for not-for-profits and annual requirements

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced bill would force the thousands of not-for-profit institutions across New York to annually re-establish their claims to real property tax exempt status.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation.

The New York State Constitution establishes that religious, charitable and educational exemptions from real property taxes shall not be altered or repealed. Yet this legislation seeks to compel these not-for-profits to annually justify their continued exemption at the risk of losing it. On this point we believe the bill to be unconstitutional. More

A.2230, Gottfried: In relation to provision of pain relieving medications

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced bill would authorize health care professionals to provide pain-relieving medication to those who are suffering, while maintaining important safeguards against homicide and assisted suicide.
The New York State Catholic Conference supports this bill.

Catholic teaching strongly supports the concept of sound pain management, and numerous health care institutions under church sponsorship throughout New York State incorporate pain management within their palliative care programs. Pain management, as an integral component of such programs, addresses the urgent need of patients to relieve the symptoms of disease even as therapeutic care gives way to comfort care designed to assist patients and their families to face the challenge of a terminal or incurable disease. More