(WXXI) This legislative session New York lawmakers have two bills in front of them that would allow a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient. Currently, just five states have legalized physician-assisted suicide.
Under the New York bill, a mentally competent patient with less than six months to live could chose to end their life with their doctor’s help. Two physicians would have to agree the patient’s illness is terminal.
Dr. Timothy Quill is a palliative care physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Most of his work is helping severely ill patients cope with their pain, but he says in severe cases medicine is limited at the end of a person’s life.
“This addresses the tougher question a little bit down the road for those relatively infrequent, but very troubling, patients who are dying and who are suffering in ways that we can’t relieve very well,” said Quill.
Quill says in states where terminally ill people are allowed to choose to end their lives the option is rare and controlled.
For some who oppose physician assisted suicide, it’s a disability rights issue.
“There’s a very deadly mix between our current cost cutting health care system, an aging society, and legalizing assisted suicide, which would if it were public policy, if it were considered a regular treatment, would be the cheapest treatment,” said Diane Coleman, president of an organization called Not Dead Yet.
Coleman says that some people who are given six months to live will survive much longer. Coleman is also concerned about the potential for abuse and coercion by heirs.
The law includes a provision that makes coercion a felony.