On Tuesday, February 4, dozens of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals from across New York visited the State Capitol to speak out against physician-assisted suicide. Tuesday’s press conference was organized by the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, of which New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is a founding ally. At a press conference on the third floor of the Capitol, doctors made a persuasive case that physician-assisted suicide is the wrong prescription for the Empire State.
Dr. John O’Brien, a family practitioner from central New York, emphasized the inconsistency between treating one patient while helping another to take his or her life. Dr. O’Brien also shared the story of a patient who asked for assisted suicide because she did not wish to be a burden to her son. When her son reassured his mother that she was not a burden, she continued treatment and her condition improved; during the months that she battled her terminal illness, she and her son were able to strengthen their relationship.
Dr. Mary-Ellen Edmiston, a palliative care specialist from Syracuse, pointed out that advances in hospice care have enabled doctors to provide effective pain management for terminally ill persons.
Dr. Matthew Lynch, an Amsterdam neurologist, made a strong case that the pending physician-assisted suicide bill in New York is dangerous and negligent. Dr. Lynch noted that the bill does not require a mental health assessment of the patient, does not require that the prescribing doctor have an existing relationship with the patient, does not require the patient to be a New York resident, and does not require specialized training for the physicians who write prescriptions for lethal drugs.
Dr. Gregory Weston, an infectious disease specialist who practices in the Bronx, emphasized that “doctor-assisted suicide is especially dangerous for those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, isolated, elderly, and living with disabilities, persons who are already marginalized and discriminated against in our health care system.”
Kristen Hanson, the wife of the late patients’ rights advocate J.J. Hanson, reminded the assembled reporters that J.J. had outlived his initial cancer prognosis by three years, and that physician-assisted suicide—if it were legal—would have robbed him and his family of the precious time that they spent together.
Following the press conference, physicians visited legislators’ offices. Let’s pray that the legislators and staffers will be persuaded by the words that they heard.