Assisted Suicide Ban Upheld in New York State

     (CN) – New York’s ban on assisted suicide does not violate its constitution, a state appeals court ruled.
     A group of physicians, patients and advocates challenged the state’s ban on physician-assisted suicide, claiming it violates their equal protection and due process rights.
     Sara Myers, a terminally ill patient with Lou Gehrig’s disease, is one of the plaintiffs, along with Eric Seiff, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney with bladder cancer.
     Five doctors joined them in the lawsuit, along with a non-profit group called End of Life New York.
     The plaintiffs argued that in the last 18 years, several states have legalized “aid-in-dying,” as they call it.
     The trial court granted the New York attorney general’s motion to dismiss the case, stating that the plaintiff’s claims were controlled by the New York Court of Appeals’ 2013 decision in Matter of Bezio v. Dorsey.
     In that decision, New York’s highest court drew a distinction between the right to refuse medical treatment and the right to commit suicide or receive help in doing so.
     The Manhattan-based First Department New York Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal in an opinion written by Justice Angela Mazzarelli.
     On appeal, the plaintiffs presented death certificates from Oregon and Washington, states that have legalized aid-in-dying.
     The certificates list the underlying diseases as the causes of death, rather than the lethal administration of medication.
     “In light of the plain meaning of the term suicide, we hold, as a matter of statutory construction, that Penal Law sections 120.30 and 125.15 prohibit aid-in-dying,” she wrote in the May 3 opinion.
     She also cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Vacco v. Quill, in which the court ruled a ban on aid-in-dying does not violate the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
     Mazzarelli quoted Vacco: “Everyone, regardless of physical condition, is entitled, if competent, to refuse unwanted lifesaving medical treatment; no one is permitted to assist a suicide.” (Emphasis in ruling.)
     She added, “plaintiffs offer nothing other than conclusory arguments for why, unlike the United States Constitution, the New York State Constitution should be construed to extend the right to refuse treatment, and let nature take its course, to a fundamental right to receive treatment that does the opposite.”
     Mazzarelli stated that the court should not be considered to have a “lack of sympathy” for those who are ill, but that it is bound by law and the decisions of higher courts.
     “We find that, even giving plaintiffs the benefit of every reasonable inference, they have not presented sufficient allegations to suggest that the Penal Law has an implicit carve-out for aid-in-dying, or that, notwithstanding the precedents on the matter, the constitutionality of aid-in-dying is ripe for judicial reconsideration,” she wrote.

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