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by Jay Gallagher

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Man bites dog at Capitol

From the man-bites-dog department: In a move that shocked Albany veterans, Gov. David Paterson today signed a bill in a ceremony that had Republicans and Democrats saying nice things about each other advocates proclaiming that the measure will improve the lives of New Yorkers.

A senator even praised Paterson, the most unpopular governor in recent state history, if polls are to be believed, who seemed to be on the verge of resigning just a little more than a week ago.

It was a shocking about-face in the Capitol better known as Dysfunction Junction, where gridlock, partisan bickering and scandal have become the norm.

Paterson today signed the Family Health Care Decisions Act into law. It allows family members to decisions like whether to withhold or withdraw of life-sustaining treatment, on behalf of patients who have lost their ability to make such decisions and don’t have health-care proxies. (Only about 20 percent of New Yorkers do).

Most people think they already had the right, but didn’t, even though it has been the informal policy for many doctors, hospitals and nursing homes. The measure was first proposed in 1994, but has been held up by concerns over protections for fetuses and rights of same-sex partners.

But this year it passed both houses of the Legislature by wide margins.

“Now, families will be able to make medical decisions for loved ones who don't have the ability to do so. Patients will no longer be denied appropriate treatment, subjected to burdensome treatments, or have their wishes, values, or religious beliefs violated,’’ said Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard N. Gottfried.

The measure “is yet another progressive piece of legislation that Gov. Paterson has signed into law and he deserves our thanks for his leadership," said Senate Health Committee chairman Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, who also gave a pat on the back to his Republican predecessor in as head of the Health Committee, Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County.

Yipes. Next thing you know they’ll tell us they have a budget deal before the deadline…Well, probably not.


Speaking of the budget, I asked Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch in a radio interview today if the state’s financial mess is worse than New York City’s near fiscal meltdown in 1975.
“This is much worse,’’ Ravitch said, in part because while the state helped the city straighten out its finances then, there is no equivalent angel for the state to turn to now.

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