ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D) signed into law the nation's first do-not-resuscitate bill, giving patients suffering cardiac and respiratory arrest the choice not to be revived.

The law, which takes effect next April, has the backing of major leaders from both parties and quickly passed the General Assembly. But state Senate leaders had to take the bill to their members twice, and it passed only after intense lobbying by Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod.

The bill is based on the recommendation of Cuomo's Task Force on Life and the Law, which is studying other right-to-die issues. Right-to-die activists called on Cuomo for further measures, including a living-will bill.

Thirty-eight states allow living wills, which enable a person, before becoming ill, to authorize doctors to remove life-support machines in the event of a terminal or debilitating illness.

The bill Cuomo signed presumes that every patient whose heart and breathing has stopped wants to be resuscitated unless the patient or a designated family member asks otherwise. It allows patients to make the decision in advance or to appoint someone to decide for them if they lose the ability to decide.