ABC News is reporting on the ruling, which was handed down on Thursday, which rejected arguments from three terminally ill patients who believed they had a right to seek life-ending drugs from a doctor. The plaintiffs, two of which are now deceased, argued that the state’s existing ban on assisted suicide shouldn’t apply to those who were seeking a merciful end to incurable illness because aid-in-dying is different than suicide.
The court disagreed.
“Aid-in-dying falls squarely within the ordinary meaning of the statutory prohibition on assisting a suicide,’’ the decision stated. “The assisted suicide statutes apply to anyone who assists an attempted or completed suicide. There are no exceptions.’’
Proponents of assisted suicide vow to try again next year when lawmakers reconvene in Albany.
“We will continue to fight to establish the right to aid in dying in the New York State legislature,” said Laurie Leonard, executive director of the group End of Life Choices New York, to ABC. “So that we can join the six other states and the District of Columbia in which aid in dying is legal.”
Pro-life leaders were ecstatic over the ruling, particularly those in the Church.
The written decision was “very strong, they shot this down from all angles,” Kathleen Gallagher with the New York State Catholic Conference told the Catholic News Agency (CNA).
“Unanimously the court judges have said very clearly there are rational, legitimate reasons for New York’s ban on assisted suicide, and then they list them,” said Kathleen Gallagher of the New York State Catholic Conference to the Catholic News Agency (CNA). “Prevention of suicide in general, the ethical integrity of the medical profession, the preservation of life – (they name) all these rational reasons why we have this law in place.”
Edward Mechmann, Director of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of New York, admitted that he was “a little flabbergasted that the court ruled so strongly, and that their opinions were so well done…it will take away some of the momentum from the assisted suicide advocates.”
“It was unanimous – all the lower courts were unanimous too – they haven’t gotten a single judge in New York to agree with them,” he told CNA.
“We don’t win too many pro-life victories in New York, so this is really very good for us.”
Even though legalized assisted suicide has gained momentum in several states in the past few years, the New York decision is significant because it “shows that it’s not inevitable that this is going to happen,” Mechmann added.
However, this doesn’t mean that the fight is over. Both Gallagher and Mechmann told CNA they are aware that assisted suicide groups are planning to continue their push for legalization and plan to do more to educate the public on this issue.
For example, most people think assisted suicide is all about relieving the unbearable suffering of the dying, but most pain can now be managed with palliative care. Those who choose assisted suicide usually express feelings of loss of meaning and the desire not to burden their loved ones.
The solution to this suffering is not death, Mechmann told CNA, but the support of friends and family.
“It’s really what the Holy Father talks about when he talks about accompaniment – we need to assure people that their family and their community and their parish will stand with them and walk with them when the end of life approaches,” he said.
“It’s a real challenge to us lay people as Catholics, we really have to step up and make sure that our family and friends know that we’ll be with them, that’s ultimately the solution.”
Assisted suicide is currently legal in Colorado, Vermont, Washington, California, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. The State Supreme Court of Montana decriminalized assisted suicide for physicians in 2009.
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