The news came in through Twitter today (h/t to Stephen Mendelsohn of Second Thoughts CT) that there will be a press conference tomorrow announcing that End of Life Choices of New York is filing an assisted suicide lawsuit. One tweet says it involves three patients and three doctors.
We don’t have more details yet, but the case may resemble similar cases brought in Montana, Connecticut and New Mexico. The results of those cases have not been all they have been cracked up to be, contrary to the exaggerated claims coming from assisted suicide advocates.
For example, assisted suicide proponents often claim that Montana legalized assisted suicide, but actually the state Supreme Court merely said that the consent of the victim could be raised by a doctor as a defense in a homicide prosecution. This is not the kind of blanket immunity that the Oregon assisted suicide statute confers, and so it does not really constitute legalization.
The Connecticut court dismissed the case brought in that state, as previously discussed in our blog:
[T]he Connecticut court viewed this as more appropriate for legislative than judicial action, stating:
Legislative determination is particularly important given the significant medical legal and ethical concerns about legalized physician assisted suicide that have been raised across the country. Among the other difficult and important public policy concerns that the legislature would have to evaluate – and is uniquely positioned in our system of government to evaluate – are the following:
– Whether physician-assisted suicide threatens the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, who are at risk of being threatened, coerced, or influenced to end their lives to spare their families the financial costs and emotional strain of caring for them; …
– Whether physician-assisted suicide shifts the focus of physicians and insurers away from vitally important measures such as identifying and treating depression and providing end-of-life pain control and palliative care; . . . – Whether physician-assisted suicide undermines the physician-patient relationship and the integrity of the medical profession by eroding patient trust in the doctor’s role as healer;…
– Whether physician-assisted suicide opens the door to the possibility of involuntary euthanasia, as has occurred in the Netherlands, because “what is couched as a limited right to ‘physician-assisted suicide’ is likely, in effect, a much broader license which could prove extremely difficult to police and contain,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 733 (1997). (Blick Decision on Motion to Dismiss.)
The New Mexico ruling affected one judicial district and is currently on appeal. A substantial number of national disability rights organizations filed a friend of the court brief in that matter last summer.
Interested members of the press should contact our spokespeople for further reactions to the New York case as details emerge.