Patients in the US state of New York will be allowed to commit suicide by taking lethal drugs, if new legislation is approved.
Bills in favour of assisted suicide have been referred to the state’s Senate and Assembly Health Committees.
Assisted suicide is already permitted in nine states and the District of Columbia, and similar attempts to remove legal protections are under way in thirteen more states.
Modelled on Oregon’s controversial assisted suicide law – the first its kind in the US – the proposed Bills would allow lethal drugs to be prescribed to patients who are deemed to have six months or less to live.
Patients who request assisted suicide must be at least 18 years of age and believed to be “mentally competent”, making the request “without coercion”.
Since Oregon introduced its so-called Death with Dignity Act in 1997, lethal drugs have been prescribed to 2,895 patients.
Last year, deaths by assisted suicide increased in the state by over 28 per cent.
Both the Medical Society of the State of New York and the American Medical Association oppose physician-assisted suicide.
Speaking against the Senate Bill last year, palliative care expert Dr Mary-Ellen Edmiston called for better end-of-life care. She said: “There are alternatives to unwilling suffering. We hope to provide more aid in living rather than more aid in dying.”
We hope to provide more aid in living rather than more aid in dying
Dr Gregory Weston, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, stated that the Bill would be “especially dangerous for those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, isolated, the elderly, and living with disabilities”.
Similar concerns were highlighted in a 2019 report by the National Council on Disability, which found that insurers “denied expensive, life-sustaining medical treatment, but offered to subsidize lethal drugs, potentially leading patients to hasten their own deaths”.
especially dangerous for those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, isolated, the elderly, and living with disabilities