The New York Assembly health committee recently held the first of two meetings on a proposed legislation that would allow some terminally-ill individuals with less than six-months to live the option to use medication to die in their sleep in cases where their suffering is unbearable. The committee members heard testimony from a variety of individuals including patients and their families, health care providers, legal experts, medical ethicists and religious leaders.
The committee’s exploration comes in the wake of a ruling by the New York Court of Appeals last year that ruled against three terminally-ill patients asserting they had a Constitutional right to die under their own conditions. The petitioners asked the Court of Appeals to shield their doctors from criminal charges in cases where physicians prescribe patients a lethal medication to end their lives.
New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Sen. Diane Savino, would permit terminally-ill patients deemed mentally fit to end their lives by using medication provided to them by a physician. Proponents of the law assert that doctor-assisted dying is oftentimes the only alternative to a long and agonizing death, during which the patient may experience complete loss of their bodily functions and mental faculties.