Three terminally ill patients filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in a New York court requesting a declaration that physician-assisted suicide is not illegal under state law, in an effort to protect their doctors from future prosecution.
The trio — Steve Goldenberg, Sara Myers and Eric Seiff — are asking a judge to issue an order protecting their doctors from criminal prosecution if they give them “aid in dying”, the New York Daily News said.
The three and the doctors and organizations who joined them in the lawsuit contend a mentally competent patient opting for a peaceful death is not suicide. “Patients trapped in a dying process they find unbearable should be able to turn to their physicians and ask for medications they could consume to bring about a peaceful death, ” said one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Kathryn Tucker, according to the News.
Though the state does have a law prohibiting assisted suicide, the plaintiffs argue that it was not intended to apply to the doctors of terminally ill patients who are mentally competent to make such a decision. The law has previously been interpreted to allow a doctor who provides a fatal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient to be prosecuted for manslaughter under the statute as someone who “intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide”, Jurist.org said.
Myers, 60, said knowing she had that option would be a comfort. The Manhattan woman was diagnosed four years ago with ALS, “which is paralyzing my entire body, piece by piece, while my emotional and intellectual capacities remain intact. Eventually, this disease will rob me of my ability to breathe. Yes, it is as horrible as it sounds, ” she told reporters at a press conference, the News said.
“When the time comes, I want to be able to gather my loved ones around me and bid them goodbye, ” she said, struggling to hold back tears, according to the report.
Greenberg had to put his finger over the tracheotomy hole in his throat to be heard, the News said. “I was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1989, which developed into AIDS around 20 years ago. It has caused me an endless series of medical crises that have brought me to today, where I face the end of my life.
“I’ve had to have toes amputated, am unable to swallow solid food, ” and struggled with cancer of the larynx, he said, according to the report. “I have fought the debilitating disease with all my strength. I’ve undergone difficult and disfiguring surgeries, radiation and a cornucopia of pain and other medications.
“But I do see the day coming when I will no longer have the strength to fight my numerous ailments, ” and “I want to have some measure of choice and control at the end of my life, ” he said, according to the News.
Seiff, an 81-year-old lawyer and former prosecutor, is dying from bladder cancer that has spread to his lungs. “Should I decide my dying becomes unbearable, I want my physician to be able to prescribe medication I can take to achieve a peaceful death, ” he said in a statement, the report said.
The doctors said that if they’re legally allowed to do so, they would prescribe the medication only as a last resort. They noted that in Oregon, where the practice is legal, about one-third of the patients who ask for the fatal prescription never use it, the News said.