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New case confirms illegality of assisted suicide in New York

The New York Court of Appeals recently issued a decision in the Myers v. Schneiderman matter. 30 N.Y.3d 1 (2017).  The case involved a group of terminally ill patients and medical providers who brought an action in New York, challenging the interpretation of the law prohibiting assisted suicide. Specifically, the plaintiffs sought a declaration carving out an exception in the law for physicians, allowing the prescription of lethal doses of drugs to mentally competent terminally ill patients.

Despite their efforts to argue that a prohibition on physician assisted suicide interfered with a physician’s duty to provide aid and relieve pain, the Court determined the statute simply did not allow for the exception. 

While assisted suicide is outlawed, terminally ill patients are able to intentionally refuse life sustaining medical efforts, which can speed-up the process of death. With this in mind, the plaintiffs also attempted to argue that a prohibition on assisted suicide was unconstitutional on the grounds that it treated patients whose specific conditions do not allow for the refusal of life sustaining treatment in order to speed up the process of death differently from individuals with that option. Ultimately, this argument also failed. 

Hence, as it stands in New York, any intentional act, causing or aiding another person in attempting or committing suicide constitutes manslaughter in the second degree, whether you’re a physician or not. 

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