Attorney's argue for terminally ill patients' right to die

May 30, 2017 06:33 PM

ALBANY - Arguing for the right to die. Attorneys for terminally ill patients and their doctors argued their case in Albany on Tuesday. They went before the state Court of Appeals.

Those in favor of aid in dying say it gives people more control over the end of their lives. Those opposed call it "assisted suicide" and say it is prohibited by New York State law.

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Proponents of aid in dying got their day in court on Tuesday. The case, called Myers v Schneiderman, had been dismissed previously by the state Supreme Court before the trial began.

Plaintiffs say they want the Court of Appeals to allow the case to be heard, so evidence can be presented.

"This case is about whether we’ll empower dying patients with the choice of a peaceful death if they find themselves trapped in an unbearable dying process," explained Kathryn Tucker, the executive director of the End of Life Liberty Project.

However, those opposed to this lawsuit along with aid in dying legislation say it would allow the state to say a terminally ill patient's life was less valuable than a healthy person's.

"This legislation would create a carve-out and say that people who are terminally ill, that their lives aren’t valuable and not only is it okay for them to go ahead and commit suicide, but we’ll actually go ahead and create a mechanism to facilitate that decision," countered Stephen Hayford, with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.

Groups opposed to the lawsuit also say it could allow people to target those with disabilities unfairly, or allow insurance companies to force end of life drugs on a patient instead of extending care.

In court, lawyers for the plaintiffs said their intent is to end unbearable suffering for mentally competent, terminally ill patients on the verge of death, arguing no difference between aid in dying drugs and terminal sedation.

The lawyer for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the state protects the right to life of all citizens and makes no distinction between someone who is terminally ill and someone who isn't. Judges questioned the defense's distinction between terminal sedation and aid in dying drugs, while the state said there were practical and ethical distinctions between the two.


WNYT Staff

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