Task Force on Life and the Law
Providing Guidance on Difficult Health Care Issues
The Task Force on Life and the Law has been an invaluable resource for difficult health care issues for New Yorkers since it was established in 1985 by Governor Mario Cuomo.
- For over 30 years it has been bringing leaders and citizens together to help provide guidance when difficult questions arise.
- The Task Force has produced influential reports on cutting-edge bioethics issues, including:
- This website contains electronic versions of all the Task Force reports. Below are some highlights of its recent and historic work.
Many Current Projects
The Task Force is continuing its exploration of the ethical and clinical issues associated with organ donation and transplantation. Nationally, more than 120,000 people are in need of an organ transplant. One donor can potentially save up to eight lives through organ donation. The Task Force is committed to help increase opportunities for the donor registry, donation and transplantation, while upholding ethical values and public trust. Currently, the Task Force is examining the ethical and clinical issues, including current practices, to issue recommendations on how to increase organ donation and transplantation rates in New York State.
Empire State Stem Cell Board
In addition to Task Force projects, Task Force staff also provides extensive, on-going support to the Empire State Stem Cell Board (the "Board"), which oversees NYSTEM, the State's program to fund stem cell research.
The Task Force staff has contributed significantly to several of the Board's projects, including providing research on how scientists could show respect for the human embryo when it is utilized in research, aiding the Board in reviewing the ethical and scientific standards for conducting human-animal chimera research, and facilitating and assisting with the development of the Board's historic policy to compensate women who donate their eggs to stem cell research. (See "Statement of the Empire State Stem Cell Board on the Compensation of Oocyte Donors") In addition, staff recently completed drafting model informed consent forms for donations of biological materials, such as eggs or sperm, to stem cell research. (See "ESSCB Model Informed Consent Forms".)
Recently Published Reports
Family Health Care Decisions
- Recommendations for Amending the Family Health Care Decisions Act to Include Health Care Decisions for Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Patients in or Transferred from Mental Health Facilities, June 2016 (PDF)
Most Searched Topics
In 1994, the Task Force examined assisted suicide and euthanasia and recommended that New York laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be changed. The Task Force concluded that legalizing the practices would be profoundly dangerous for many patients who are ill and vulnerable. The risks would be most extraordinary for individuals whose autonomy and well-being are already compromised by poverty, lack of access to good medical care, or membership in a stigmatized social group.
The Task Force has addressed a number of issues related to reproductive technologies, but in 1998 the Task Force issued a comprehensive report examining the many new and developing reproductive technologies. The report covered fertility treatments, gamete donation, in-vitro fertilization, the storage and disposition of frozen gametes and embryos, parental rights and responsibilities, regulatory issues, and a number of other topics.
Health Decisions for Others
In April 1992, the Task Force issued a report examining the ethical issues posed in making decisions for incapacitated patients and the growing body of clinical data about such decisions. The report set forth a proposal for legislation authorizing family members and others close to the patient to decide about treatment for all incapacitated patients who have not signed a health care proxy or left specific oral or written treatment instructions. It also covers incapacitated patients who have no family or friends to decide for them, a particularly vulnerable patient population whose needs are generally not addressed by state laws on medical decisions. The report became the model for the Family Health Care Decisions Act.