New York State Task Force on Life and the Law Commemorates 30th Anniversary

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 12, 2015) – The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year with a symposium on November 12 at the New York City Bar Association, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The symposium will feature a panel discussion entitled, "Thirty Years of Civil Discourse on Difficult Issues." There will also be presentations by Bruce Jennings, director of bioethics at the Center for Humans and Nature, Mary Beth Morrissey, member of the bioethics committee at the New York City Bar Association, and Arthur Caplan, founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics in NYU Langone Medical Center's Department of Population Health.

When Governor Mario Cuomo convened the first meeting in March 1985, discussions centered on do-not-resuscitate orders and brain death. Today, as the Task Force celebrates its 30th anniversary, key issues include genetic testing, assisted reproductive technologies, and pandemic and disaster response. Some issues, such as organ procurement, continue to evoke ethical discussions and debate just as they did 30 years ago.

"The New York State Task Force for Life and Law is a critical and vibrant part of the Department of Health," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "Our Department relies on the wisdom and expertise of this esteemed group of volunteers to help us shape policies on issues that stand at the intersection of medicine, law and ethics. Through the years, their contributions have been invaluable."

The Task Force is made up of 23 governor-appointed experts in religion, philosophy, medicine, law, nursing and bioethics, all of whom are leaders in their fields. Many of the Task Force's recommendations have been adopted as legislation or regulation in New York, greatly impacting the delivery of health care in the State.

Among them was the Family Health Care Decisions Act enacted in 2010, which enables surrogate decision-making for patients who have not chosen a health care proxy and unexpectedly lose the capacity to make decisions. In addition, Task Force recommendations have informed state laws and regulations on organ donation, brain death, surrogate parenting and health care proxies. Many Task Force recommendations have been embraced by other states as well.

For additional information about the New York State Task Force on Life and Law visit: