Currently, New York law criminalizes assisting suicide as a form of manslaughter but “right to die” advocates are working to change that.
According to the Capital Playbook, a woman in Manhattan, Sara Myer, has said she would like her doctors to prescribe medication that would end her life. Myers, 60, has Lou Gehrig’s disease and relies on others for bathing, toileting, dressing and feeding. Additionally, she is slowly losing the ability to speak and already struggles to breathe. She say’s her condition is expected to worsen and wants the courts to re-examine the state’s assisted suicide law. In fact, Myers has filed a lawsuit against the state’s ban on grounds that it violates the equal protection clause of the constitution.
The plaintiffs for the Myer’s case said, “Sara feels trapped in a torture chamber of her own deteriorating body. Sara is fully aware of the ravages the disease wreaks and knows that her illness will impose further progressive loss of bodily function and integrity and increasing pain and suffering. Sara wishes not to have to endure a horrible, slow death that would, in her considered judgment, deprive her of the integrity and dignity she has left.”
In 1997, the United States Supreme Court ruled that New York’s ban on assisted suicide was constitutional; however, state senators Brad Hoylman and Diane Savino plan to introduce legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives through the self-administration of lethal pills prescribed by a doctor. Sen. Hoylman said, “I think it is important that if statutes like [New York’s prohibition] are overturned that we have a tightly constructed legislative framework in place. I think that this initiative will serve that purpose.”
In the 1997 case, Vacco v. Quill, the plaintiffs used the same argument as Myer’s lawsuit but the high court disagreed, and said there was a distinction between passively letting someone die by taking them off a ventilator and actively aiding someone by prescribing them lethal doses of medications. In a rare occurrence, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous (9-0) decision, and the majority opinion was authored by Chief Justice Rehnquist, and was joined by Justices Kennedy, Scalia, O’Connor, and Thomas.
Although the proposed legislation is expected to fail in New York, the publicized story of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard reignited the “right to die” debate in our nation. Brittany had stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most deadly form of brain cancer and was given six-months to live.
After her diagnosis, Brittany decided to move from her California home to Oregon so she could have access to phenobarbital, a lethal drug legal in Oregon, as well as New Mexico, Montana, Washington, and Vermont. Tragically, on November 2nd, Brittany legally committed suicide, despite numerous requests from pro-life advocates and the disabled community to reconsider.
Unfortunately, besides New York, assisted suicide legislation is being considered in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Montana and New Mexico.