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New York lawmakers consider Medical Aid in Dying Act

New York state lawmakers are currently considering a new law. The law would allow terminally ill patients to request and use medication for to aid in dying.

How would medical aid in dying work? The Medical Aid in Dying Act requires the patient be mentally competent and terminally ill to request such medication. The proposal provides very specific instructions. If the proper medical professionals find the patient is terminally ill and mentally competent, he or she can request medication to aid in termination of his or her life.

The patient must make both an oral and written request for the medication. The prescribing physician would sign the written request. The physician’s signature must be witnessed by the patient and two witnesses as well as the attending physician and, if applicable, a mental health professional.

The request is not final. The patient could rescind the request at any time.

New York state law currently bans physician-assisted suicide. Any physician to currently provide this form of care to a patient could face criminal or civil liability. If passed, the new law would remove this form of liability. However, the language of the proposal as currently written does not remove liability for negligent or intentional misconduct.

Will the proposal become law? It is too early to have a definitive answer. However, New York residents support this type of law. A poll from 2015 found 77 percent of all New Yorkers support such a law. This included those with strong religious ties — 75 percent of those who support the proposal identified as Catholic.

If passed, New York will join six states that currently have similar laws. These states are California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

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