Advocates of medically assisted suicide want New York lawmakers to pass legislation authorizing terminally ill patients to request drugs to end their lives. But they acknowledge the measure faces significant challenges.
The proposal would require two physicians to certify that the requesting patient suffers from a terminal illness and is competent to make the decision. Physicians could refuse to agree to the request for any reason, and two witnesses would be required to be present when the patient completes their written request.
Supporters and opponents of the bill both came to the state Capitol in Albany on Tuesday to make their case to lawmakers.
Kate Connery was there to urge lawmakers to the support the bill. The Clifton Park woman's daughter Christine, 29, died last year after a four-year fight with pancreatic and live cancer. Before she died, Christine said she wished she had the option of choosing to die on her own terms.
"It was horrendous. Tore my heart out," Connery said Tuesday of her daughter's painful struggle. "She loved life. But she said people should have the choice. She didn't want people to have to go through what she was going through without a choice."
But Margaret Dore, an attorney from Washington state who opposes physician-assisted suicide, said the safeguards in the New York legislation aren't sufficient to prevent big problems.
"This is a recipe for elder abuse," Dore said. "And it will encourage people with years to live to end their lives prematurely. You cannot make the law safe enough."
The bill has sponsors in both the Senate and state Assembly, but it remains to be seen whether it will even get a vote this year. Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, cautioned supporters to be patient.
"This is a thorny issue for a lot of my colleagues," he said.
A nationwide Gallup Poll in May found that 68 percent of respondents say doctors should be allowed to assist terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. It's now legal in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. A law in California is expected to take effect later this year.
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