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Euthanasia-Free NZ welcomes New York High Court decision

New York High Court decides ‘Aid-in-Dying’ is Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia-Free NZ welcomes the New York High Court’s decision to uphold the law against ‘assisted dying’.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society and their overseas counterparts argue that there is a fundamental difference between suicide and ‘aid-in-dying’ and that the latter should therefore be legal.

Yesterday the New York High Court decided that ‘aid-in-dying’, also called ‘medically assisted dying’, is indeed assisted suicide and that there is no right to assisted suicide in New York.

This decision is far from unique. The New Mexico Supreme Court made a similar decision in June 2016. In recent years courts have also upheld laws prohibiting ‘assisted dying’ in New York, Tennessee, California, San Francisco, the UK, South Africa, the European Court of Human Rights and in New Zealand (the Lecretia Seales case in June 2015).

The New York High Court stated in Meyers v. Schneiderman:

“Suicide” is not defined in the Penal Law, and therefore “we must give the term its ordinary and commonly understood meaning” … Suicide has long been understood as “the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.”…Black’s Law Dictionary defines “suicide” as “[t]he act of taking one’s own life,” and “assisted suicide” as “[t]he intentional act of providing a person with the medical means or the medical knowledge to commit suicide” (10th ed 2014). Aid-in-dying falls squarely within the ordinary meaning of the statutory prohibition on assisting a suicide.

The Court upheld the well-established distinction between refusing life-sustaining treatment and assisted suicide

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society and its overseas counterparts argue that there is no ethical difference between the refusal of life-sustaining medical intervention and receiving lethal drugs from a doctor to end one’s life.

The New York High Court disagree:

In the case of the terminally ill, refusing treatment involves declining life-sustaining techniques that intervene to delay death. Aid-in-dying, by contrast, involves a physician actively prescribing lethal drugs for the purpose of directly causing the patient’s death.

Unintended consequences of ‘assisted dying’ legislation

The Court concluded that “our legislature has a rational basis for criminalizing assisted suicide” and stated:

As summarized by the Supreme Court, the State’s interests in prohibiting assisted suicide include: “prohibiting intentional killing and preserving life; preventing suicide; maintaining physicians’ role as their patients’ healers; protecting vulnerable people from indifference, prejudice, and psychological and financial pressure to end their lives; and avoiding a possible slide towards euthanasia.”

The New York High Court’s judgement confirms that the legalisation of assisted suicide, by any name, involves unintended consequences that put vulnerable people at risk.

Euthanasia-Free NZ urge the public and politicians of New Zealand to reject ‘assisted dying’ legislation, and in particular David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill.


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