Barbara Hammer, Who CBS2 Profiled Last Month, Passed Over The Weekend After Painfully Long Battle With Ovarian Cancer


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — CBS2 has a follow-up on a woman interviewed last month who was fighting ovarian cancer and fighting for the “right-to-die” law.

Barbara Hammer passed over the weekend at the age of 79, but as Cindy Hsu reported Wednesday, her wife is continuing the battle.

“I’ve done everything I need to do. I made a million films. I’ve been around the world,” Hammer said during the earlier sit-down with Hsu.

Hammer was in hospice care at home and had been fighting ovarian cancer for 12 years, undergoing surgery and more than 100 chemotherapy treatments. She wanted the right to die by lethal medication from a doctor if the pain became unbearable. But it’s illegal in New York.

Florrie Burke, left, has assumed the fight to get a right-to-die law passed in New York following the death of her wife, Barbara Hammer, right. (Photo: CBS2)

Her wife, Florrie Burke, said she died last weekend in a lot of pain.

“It was horrible to watch. It was hard on her. We did everything to make her comfortable, but we couldn’t do enough,” Burke said.

Right now, there are right-to-die laws in seven states and Washington D.C., and nearly 30 states have introduced similar bills, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

There are patient requirements where the law is legal. The person must be a mentally capable adult, have a terminal prognosis of six months or less to live and be able to take the lethal medication on their own.

Many are fighting against these laws, saying they could lead to abuse, especially among the elderly and disabled.

“Not every person that would die from a prescribed lethal dose would want to,” said Stephanie Woodward of the Center for Disability Rights. “There’s a lot of room for abuse, coercion and mistake here.”

Burke is now continuing the fight to get the law passed in New York. It’s called the “New York Medical Aid In Dying Act,” and it’s what Hammer fought for, to the very end.

“She tried her best when she was able and she asked me to continue and I will do that,” Burke said.

She said Hammer recorded a video, hoping to help people better understand the issue.

“I would so much like to be able to manage my own death,” Hammer says on the clip.

While that didn’t happen for Hammer, Burke said she’ll keep working to help give other terminal patients that choice.

The New Jersey State Assembly and Senate are scheduled to vote on a similar bill next week.