ALBANY, N.Y. — A week after New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill codifying the “right” to an abortion in state law—and allowing abortion up to birth in cases where the baby is not expected to survive or to “protect” the health or life of the mother—a group has again launched a campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state following the reintroduction of a bill surrounding “medical aid in dying.”
The New York chapter of the group known as Compassion & Choices held a press conference and rally at the state capitol building on Monday to call for the passage of Assembly Bill 2694, which was filed last week by Senator Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, D-Westchester.
The effort is not new, as the bill had likewise been introduced in years past, but Compassion & Choices has renewed its call to pass the legislation in New York State.
“Every press conference, I can’t help but think about my sister … who on her dying bed when she was stricken with ovarian cancer, would be yelling out, ‘When am I going to die already?'” Paulin stated. “My sister would have chosen life. That’s the irony. Aid in dying patients would choose life, but their cancer, their disease, their bodies are choosing otherwise.”
“And who would not want to be able to make choices when you are the most vulnerable, when you are the most at risk, and when you are suffering in pain?” she asked. “… When there are no meds that can help alleviate that, when you know that you are going to die within a week, within days, within minutes, you want to relieve yourself of that pain. And the only thing you can do many times is this option. Why wouldn’t we give it to the residents of our state like they have done in other places?”
A. 2694 allows for physicians to prescribe fatal medication to adults who have a terminal illness, defined as an “incurable or irreversible illness or condition” that will “within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months.”
Under the measure, the patient is required to submit both an oral and written request to die to his or her attending physician. The written request must be signed by two witnesses, who attest that the person made the decision of their own volition and without coercion, and one may not be a relative or the employee of the facility where the patient is receiving treatment.
The attending physician is also mandated to discuss all of the available options with the individual, including palliative care and hospice. The physician may not write the prescription without first “offering the qualified individual an opportunity to rescind the request.”
The patient is permitted to decline to inform their family that they have chosen to die via a lethal prescription.
While part of the goal of Monday’s press conference was to announce the results of a stated poll by WebMD/Medscape, which claims that doctors in New York state support having the option of physician-assisted suicide 56 to 26 percent, the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide noted in a press release that the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) still opposes doctor-prescribed death.
“Despite shifts in favor of physician-assisted suicide as evidenced by its legality in an increasing number of states, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia have not been part of the normative practice of modern medicine,” MSSNY writes on its website. “Compelling arguments have not been made for medicine to change its footing and to incorporate the active shortening of life into the norms of medical practice.”
“Although relief of suffering has always been a fundamental duty in medical practice, relief of suffering through shortening of life has not. Moreover, the social and societal implications of such a fundamental change cannot be fully contemplated,” it outlines. “MSSNY supports all appropriate efforts to promote patient autonomy, promote patient dignity, and to relieve suffering associated with severe and advanced diseases. Physicians should not perform euthanasia or participate in assisted suicide.”
Diane Coleman, the president of Not Dead Yet, also expressed concern that because of the cost of healthcare, some might choose assisted suicide because it is the cheapest way out.
“We live with a profit-driven healthcare system facing tremendous cost-cutting pressures. Assisted suicide is the cheapest ‘treatment,’” she sad in a statement. “These bills grant legal immunity to doctors and others who assist suicides of people who may have a terminal condition. They do not prevent mistakes, coercion or abuse and, therefore, endanger the lives of old, ill and disabled people.”
In addition to A. 2694, Assembly bill 30 has been filed, which would direct the commissioner of the State Department of Health to to “conduct a study relating to medical aid in dying,” and Senate bill 647 would prohibit insurance companies from covering the lethal drug so as to avoid swaying the ailing patient.
Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in seven states—California, Colorado, Montana, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—as well as the District of Columbia.
While there is much talk about bodily autonomy surrounding both the issue of abortion and physician-assisted suicide, Scripture states in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.”
Job 14:5 also outlines, “Seeing [man’s] days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”