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New York's highest court rules against physician assisted suicide

[JURIST] New York's highest state court, the Court of Appeals [judicial website] ruled [opinion PDF] on Thursday that the state constitution does not guarantee a right to physician assisted suicide. The claim was brought by three terminally ill patients against the New York Attorney General. "Physician assisted suicide" was defined as "the right of a mentally competent and terminally ill person to obtain a prescription for a lethal dosage of drugs from a physician, to be taken at some point to cause death." On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that New Yorkers have a constitutional right to physician assisted suicide. The court found that there is no fundamental right to suicide, although there is a right to deny life-sustaining medical treatment. Applying the rational basis standard of review, the court decided that the state had a legitimate interest in criminalizing physician assisted suicide, namely protecting patients from abuse and preventing suicide.

The right to die has been a contentious issue in the US. In 2016 the District of Columbia Council approved [JURIST report] a "Death with Dignity" bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives with a physician's help. The bill was blocked [JURIST report] by the House in February. Also in February Montana introduced [JURIST report] a bill that would allow homicide charges to be brought against doctors engaged in physician-assisted suicide and would run against the current policy that allows life-ending options. In May the Nevada Senate approved [JURIST report] a physician aid-in-dying bill.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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