About the Task Force on Life and the Law


Governor Mario Cuomo established the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law ("Task Force") in 1985.

  • The Task Force consists of 23 Governor-appointed volunteer experts who assist the State in developing public policy on issues related to medicine, law, and ethics.
  • The Task Force is comprised of leaders in the fields of religion, philosophy, law, medicine, nursing, and bioethics.
  • The New York State Commissioner of Health is the chairman of the Task Force.
  • The Task Force has produced influential reports on cutting-edge bioethics issues, including the withholding and withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment, assisted reproductive technologies, organ transplantation, dietary supplements, assisted suicide, genetic testing, and the allocation of ventilators in an influenza pandemic.

Legislation and Regulation

Ten of the Task Force's recommendations have been adopted as legislation or regulation in New York, and have greatly impacted health care delivery in New York State.

  • The enactments encompass the determination of death, do-not-resuscitate ("DNR") orders, health care proxies, organ and tissue transplantation, genetic testing, assisted reproductive technology, surrogate parenting, and palliative care.
  • In 2010, the State Legislature passed the Family Health Care Decisions Act ("FHCDA"), which established a statutory framework for surrogate consent to health care for patients who lack decision-making capacity, and was modeled on the Task Force's report, "When Others Must Choose: Deciding for Patients Without Capacity".
  • Most recently, the Legislature amended the FHCDA to authorize surrogate decision-making for hospice care, based on a recommendation by the Task Force.
  • In addition, other states, including Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Vermont, have embraced the Task Force's recommendations as models for legislation.

Vast Contributions to the Academic Literature

Medical, legal, and social science literature frequently reference the Task Force. Its reports often appear in the curricula of medical ethics, law, and public policy courses.

  • The work of the Task Force and its members has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed publications, including:
    • The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
    • The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
    • The Hastings Center Report
    • The Journal of Clinical Ethics
    • The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethic
    • The American Journal of Bioethics

Speaking Engagements in Bioethics and Policy

The Task Force is a visible entity in the bioethics and policy spheres. Its members and staff have spoken at professional conferences and organizations, most recently for:

  • American Society of Law
  • Medicine and Ethics
  • New York Academy of Medicine
  • White House Conference on Aging and Developmental Disabilities
  • New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation
  • American Medical Association,
  • American Society for Bioethics and Humanities
  • Institute of Medicine
  • New York City and State Bar Associations.

Anniversary Symposia Celebration

The Task Force has organized and hosted an anniversary symposium on a decennial basis since 2005. The 30th Anniversary symposium was on November 25, 2015. The 20th Anniversary Symposium was on March 3, 2005.

To read more about the symposia, please click here.