In April New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill known as the “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” which allows doctors to write a lethal prescription for terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
The bill, which was sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli and Senator Nick Scutari, makes New Jersey the eighth state to allow such end-of-life decisions with the assistance of medical professionals.
“Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do,” Governor Murphy said.
“By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face. I commend Assemblyman Burzichelli for steering us down this long, difficult road, and thank the Legislature for its courage in tackling this challenging issue.”
The bill passed both chambers of the State Legislature on March 25 with the minimum votes necessary to pass; 41 in the Assembly and 21 in the Senate.
“This will provide a humane choice for terminally-ill patients who are experiencing tremendous suffering and pain. It offers the freedom of choice for those with no hope of surviving beyond six months to end their suffering in a dignified way,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“It is a very personal decision. I watched someone I loved suffer for the last six months of her life from cancer while her children watched. Her suffering was prolonged to a point where she entered a hospice where her medications were increased until she passed away. I don’t think that was humane for her or for her loved ones. This will offer patients in end-of-life circumstances an option to decide their own fate in their final days.”
The bill permits terminally ill, adult patients residing in New Jersey to obtain and self-administer medication to end their lives peacefully and humanely.
A patient’s attending and consulting physicians must determine that the patient has a life expectancy of six months or less, has the capacity to make health care decisions, and is acting voluntarily, in order for the patient to obtain the medication. The bill establishes additional procedures and safeguards that patients, physicians, and other health care professionals must follow before a qualifying patient may legally obtain and self-administer the medication.
The bill will take effect this week – on August 1, 2019.