by JAMES GORMLEY, The Legislative Gazette, September 7, 2017
New Yorkers do not have a constitutional right to “aid-in-dying” drugs and procedures, according to a decision by the state’s highest court released Thursday.
The New York State Court of Appeals has rejected a plaintiff’s argument that a person has a fundamental constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide in New York state.
In the case Myers v. Schneiderman, terminally ill patients Steve Goldenberg, Sara Myers and Eric Seiff sued the state of New York in 2015 for the right to die under the supervision of doctors, claiming it was their right to do so under the state Constitution.
They argued that New York has “long recognized the existence of a person’s fundamental right to self-determination over his or her own body and the type of medical treatment he or she receives.”
But the state’s highest court rejected that argument and ended its decision by stating “plaintiffs’ claims are better addressed to the Legislature.”
A Medical Aid in Dying bill has been introduced in the Legislature for the last three sessions, which would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of barbitutaes to mentally competent, terminally ill patients.
However, right-to-life groups, advocates for the disabled and some religious organizations have successfully fought the bill thus far.
Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a conservative Christian organization that has staunchly opposed aid-in-dying legislation, says the Court of Appeals ruling does three things.
“It demonstrates respect for the Constitution of the state of New York. Nothing in our state’s Constitution in any way affirms physician-assisted suicide, and the Court acknowledged that reality.” McGuire said. “Second, the decision upholds the role of the Legislature as policymaker. Third, the decision recognizes that the state ‘has a significant interest in preserving life and preventing suicide, a serious public health problem.’
“All New Yorkers should cheer today’s decision … Confronted with a controversial and emotionally charged case, the New York Court of Appeals has done the right thing in declining the plaintiffs’ invitation to legislate from the bench,” McGuire added.