Bioethics Blogs

New York Top Court to Review Medical Aid in Dying State Constitutional Issues

End of Life Choices New York and the End of Life Liberty Project are applauding the ruling by the New York Court of Appeals to hear the appeal in the case of Myers, et. al. v. Schneiderman.


Terminally ill patients and doctors sued the Attorney General and several district attorneys in an effort to prevent the prosecution of physicians who prescribe medications to terminally ill, mentally competent patients, upon the request of the patients, which patients may take to end their suffering and achieve a peaceful death.       

“We are pleased that New York’s highest court recognized the substantial constitutional questions raised by this appeal,” said Edwin G. Schallert, Debevoise & Plimpton, co-counsel to plaintiffs in the case.  “We look forward to vindicating the rights of terminally ill patients to choose to avoid unbearable suffering by having the option of aid in dying.”


“The Court of Appeals, in allowing this case to proceed, took a key step forward toward allowing the patients and physicians who brought this case to present compelling facts before the important issues are decided,” said Kathryn L. Tucker, Director of the End of Life Liberty Project, and plaintiffs’ co-counsel. “We are optimistic that when the Court is made aware of the suffering facing patients, the profoundly personal reasons motivating their desire to choose a more peaceful death, and the fact that when the option is available, end of life care for all patients improves, with no harm to anyone, it will rule in our favor.”


The lawsuit asks the court to find that physicians who provide a prescription for medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient – which the patient could consume to bring about a peaceful death – should not be subject to criminal prosecution under existing law which prohibits assisting another to ‘commit suicide.’ The suit argues that the choice of such a dying patient for a peaceful death is not ‘suicide’ and the physician does not assist such a patient in ‘committing suicide.’ 


Plaintiffs also assert constitutional claims: “New York’s courts have long recognized a fundamental right to self-determination with respect to one’s body and to control the course of one’s medical treatment.” This case presents “substantial issues under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of New York’s Constitution.”


Laurie Leonard, Executive Director of End of Life Choices New York, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said: “We are very pleased the Court of Appeals has given us the opportunity to move forward with this case.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.