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Advocates for End-of-Life Choices Press Case in Court, Legislature

Five states currently have laws allowing physician aid in dying for terminally Ill patients. (Mercurywoodrose/Wikimedia Commons)
Five states currently have laws allowing physician aid in dying for terminally Ill patients. (Mercurywoodrose/Wikimedia Commons)
December 10, 2015

NEW YORK - Advocates for physicians' aid in dying are working in the courts and in the Legislature to make it possible for terminally ill New Yorkers to end their lives peacefully, and with dignity.

A lawsuit seeking to protect doctors from prosecution for prescribing end-of-life medications was dismissed without a single hearing earlier this year. David Leven, director of End of Life Choices New York, says the goal is to give options to people who are dying.

"The right of mentally competent, terminally ill patients to be able to obtain a prescription which they could take in order to end their suffering and achieve a peaceful death," says Leven.

Three terminally ill patients and four doctors have joined End of Life Choices New York as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They have filed an appeal of the case's dismissal and the state has until Jan. 6 to respond.

In October California became the fifth state to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients and there are currently two similar bills in the New York State Legislature. Opponents fear such a law would be abused. But Leven points to the experience in Oregon where physician-assisted dying has been legal for 17 years.

"It's rarely used, it's safe, it's effective," says Leven. "There are many safeguards which protect people from abuse, and in fact there has been no showing that there is any disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations."

According to Leven, most of those in other states who have requested aid in dying are well educated and relatively affluent.

One conservative group has labeled the bills "kill-granny legislation." But Leven says that is a total misrepresentation of what the bills would allow.

"This is actually about patients making informed decisions for themselves," says Leven. "And patients who must actually self administer the drug if they decide to do so."

He says about 30 percent of those who request the medication never use it.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY