New Jersey Legalizes Physician-Assisted Suicide

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New Jersey Legalizes Physician-Assisted Suicide

Last Friday, April 12, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.” Effective Aug. 1, this law will make New Jersey the eighth state in the country to legalize physician-assisted suicide. 

Physician-assisted suicide, a practice wherein a licensed physician giving a suffering—and terminally illindividual the means to painlessly end his or her life, is illegal in most states. 

California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana (though only by court ruling rather than legislation), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. are the only few areas within the country where a patient may ask their physician for a lethal prescription.

The bill, which was first introduced seven years ago, failedto gain traction in the Christie administration. The bill narrowly passed under Murphy, coming down to one vote in both the State Senate and General Assembly.

Under the new law, health care facilities will be able to voluntarily offer this practice to their patients. To qualify for a physician-assisted suicide, a patient must be terminally ill—defined as having a prognosis of six months or fewer to live with an irreversible disease. The patient must be a New Jersey resident, mentally fit, ableto make decisions on his or her own health, and give fully informed consent.

The patient must also be given a terminal prognosis by not only their attending physician, but also a second consulting physician. The patient can then issue a verbal request foraphysician assisted death. Fifteen days later, the patient may make a second verbal request. After two verbal requests alongside a written request, the physician may issue a prescription for a lethal drug to be used by the patient in a private establishment at the patient’s discretion.

Governor Murphy took personal issue with the bill stating that “as a lifelong, practicing Catholic, I acknowledge that I have personally grappled with my position on this issue.” 

However, Murphy “concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion. I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents.” 


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