Earlier this month, the state’s high court issued a written opinion in a New York civil rights case involving the rights of mentally competent, terminally ill patients to seek prescription medication to end their life. Ultimately, the court distinguished between the existing right to withdraw or refuse medical treatment and the plaintiff’s asserted right to affirmatively seek out life-ending medication.
The plaintiffs in the case included three terminally ill patients who wished to end their lives by obtaining a lawful prescription to do so. The plaintiffs also included several physicians who, but for the criminal prohibition of “assisted suicide,” would have prescribed the terminally ill plaintiffs a prescription to end their life.
The case was filed against the New York Attorney General and sought a declaratory judgment clarifying that a physician who wrote a prescription for a life-ending drug would not be prosecuted. Presumably, if the plaintiffs won the lawsuit, and the prohibition against prescribing life-ending medication was lifted, the physician plaintiffs would then be legally permitted to assist in the deaths of the terminally ill patients.