Former State Attorney General Vacco Hasn’t Changed Stance Against Assisted Suicide


New York’s former top attorney remains opposed to efforts to allow terminally ill people to end their own life nearly a decade after he defended the state’s ban on the practice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco was one of four panelists who spoke on the issue to attorneys in Albany during an educational event at the New York State Bar Association on Friday…

Vacco, a Republican who served concurrently with Gov. George Pataki, defended the state when it was sued by Dr. Timothy Quill over New York’s ban on so-called physician-assisted suicide.

It’s legal in New York for patients to refuse treatment that could prolong their life, but doctors cannot take steps that would essentially hasten the death of a patient. Quill, along with other doctors and a handful of patients, challenged the state’s ban on the latter practice.

The case, Vacco v. Quill, eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court after the state’s law was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The New York Attorney General’s Office, under Vacco, had argued that allowing doctors to help a patient end their life was not the same as ending life-saving treatment. The Supreme Court agreed.

Vacco said his position hasn’t changed since then.

“The answer is … that treating the pain, including what we refer to as terminal sedation, is not morally, legally and ethically the same as physician-assisted suicide,” Vacco said. “Where the line has presently been drawn by the New York state Legislature is the only rational place to put that line.”

Vacco argued that, given the differences in public opinion and different considerations on the issue, the state should not change it’s laws on medical aid in dying. The current statute, he said, goes far enough to allow choices for patients at the end of life.

Read more at Law.com…

Scroll to Top