On February 4, 2015, three terminally ill individuals, five medical providers, and End of Life Choices New York (“Plaintiffs”) filed a Complaint with the New York Supreme Court in the County of New York, arguing that it is unclear whether patients are legally able to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of medicine from a physician, and whether the physicians writing those prescriptions would be subject to criminal prosecution under New York’s manslaughter statutes.

New York’s Assisted Suicide Statute defines assisting in suicide as “intentionally caus[ing] or aid[ing] another person to commit suicide.” Plaintiffs argued that because the physician merely writes the prescription — and the patient then must choose to get the prescription filled, and must also choose to actually take the prescription — the physician is not “intentionally caus[ing] or aid[ing]” suicide.

On October 16, 2015, the court dismissed the case.

After the Court’s decision, Plaintiffs appealed the matter on October 23, 2015, bringing the matter to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Compassion & Choices filed a Brief of Amicus Curiae, supporting Plaintiffs’ arguments for medical aid in dying. The full text of the brief can be read here.

On May 6, 2016, the Appellate Court filed its decision, upholding the New York Supreme Court’s decision, in an unfortunate loss for potential medical aid in dying patients in New York.

The Appellate Court did expressly state that their decision “should not be viewed as reflecting a lack of sympathy for those suffering as death approaches, or even our opinion that aid-in-dying should never be introduced in New York as a viable option so long as appropriate safeguards are in place,” leaving the legality of medical aid in dying in New York open for further discussion in the future, as public social beliefs continue to change. Compassion & Choices will continue fighting for medical aid in dying, not only in New York, but across the country.

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