Assisted Suicide Bill Exits New York
Published on May 23rd, 2012
By Kathleen M. Gallagher
Earlier this month we achieved a quiet, but significant, victory here in New York State. We convinced Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D – Bronx) to withdraw a bill he sponsored that would have legalized doctor-assisted suicide in the Empire State. Of course, it wasn’t called that; it was called the “death with dignity” act, and it promised “empowerment” for terminally ill patients to enable them to choose the time and manner of their death in a “humane and dignified” manner.
In reality, it would have joined New York with Oregon, Washington and Montana in allowing doctors to knowingly prescribe lethal doses of medication with the express purpose of ending their patients’ lives. It would have changed the role of physician from that of healer to that of killer. It would have changed the way society cares for the sick from that of alleviating discomfort and managing pain to a death-based solution for those who feel they are burdensome and have lost their autonomy.
In 1994, then Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Life and the Law unanimously concluded that legalizing assisted suicide would “pose profound risks to many patients.” They said this:
“No matter how carefully any guidelines are framed, assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and bias that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of our society, including health care. The practices will pose the greatest risks to those who are poor, elderly, members of a minority group, or without access to good medical care. The growing concern about health care costs increases the risks presented by legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. This cost consciousness will not be diminished, and may well be exacerbated, by health care reform.”
I would argue this is truer today than it was 18 years ago. Thank God the New York legislation is gone. Let’s hope it’s a final exit.