David N. Hoffman, healthcare attorney, clinical ethicist, and Lecturer in Professional Studies for the Master of Science in Bioethics program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, testified before the New York State Assembly Health Committee in June on the proposed Medical Aid in Dying Bill (A2383-A) introduced by Assembly Member Amy Paulin.
Hoffman, who teaches Law and Bioethics at Columbia, testified on the professional ethical implications and justifications for physician involvement in the relief of otherwise untreatable suffering at the end of life. He highlighted the progress the healthcare delivery system has made in expanding awareness of palliative care services, since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to recognize a constitutional right to medical aid in dying in the case of Vacco v. Quillin 1997.
“While it is true that even terminal patients have the prerogative to accept or reject treatment offered by their attending clinicians, it is also true that a clinician authorized to provide medical aid in dying is entitled to take that refusal of treatment into consideration in evaluating both the patient’s decisional capacity, and the clinician’s willingness to provide the medical aid in dying authorized by this bill. The bill clearly creates a responsibility on the part of the treating clinician to ascertain whether the patient is suffering from an incurable illness or condition,” Hoffman explained to the Health Committee in his oral and written testimony.