During the recent session of the New York State legislature, policymakers failed to enact a bill that would permit physicians to assist patients to end their lives when a terminal illness becomes unbearable. A legal challenge claiming that this idea is a constitutional right is being considered by a NYS court. New York is struggling with giving people the right to have choices in dying even though Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and California have all made it possible through statutes or the courts, and many other states are seeking to do likewise.
But there are many other ways that people with terminal illnesses can have more choices in dying. This is particularly so if their clinicians are willing to talk with them about end-of-life choices; but many are not. Others help patients to have more choices in dying but do so underground, fearing charge of criminality and professional malpractice.
On July 14th, HealthCetera Radio producer Diana Mason, PhD, RN, explores issues related to choices in dying, in general, and efforts to enable physicians and nurses to support patients in their end-of-life choices. Joining her in this discussion are two health professionals who are staunch advocates for choices in dying:
Timothy Quill, MD, is a physician specializing in palliative care at the University of Rochester Medical Center who was the lead plaintiff in a case that eventually reached the Supreme Court of the United States in 1997, Vacco v. Quill, in which the Court decided that a state law against physician-assisted suicide (as it was then called) or dying was constitutional. His courage to describe his efforts to assist a terminally ill patient to have choices in how she died triggered a national conversation that continues to evolve.
Judith Schwarz, PhD, RN, is the Clinical Director for End of Life Choices New York. Her research documented that some nurses do help patients to have choices in dying but don’t talk about it.
So tune in on Thursday at 1:00 to HealthCetera Radio on WBAI, 99.5 FM in New York City, or streaming online at www.wbai.org; or you can listen to the interview anytime by clicking here:
HealthCetera Radio is sponsored by the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, City University of New York.