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N.J. Assembly Passes ‘Death With Dignity’ Bill

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org

The New Jersey Assembly has approved legislation that would allow terminally ill adults to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs.

The controversial bill had bounced around the Legislature for years before passing by a 41-28 vote Thursday, The Associated Press reports. However, its fate in the state Senate is unclear.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, would allow patients in the final stages of an “irreversibly fatal illness” and with a life expectancy of six months or less to obtain a prescription for lethal barbiturates, which would be self-administered.

The legislation is modeled on Oregon’s so-called “Death with Dignity” law. Supporters say such legislation enhances patient freedom at the end of life and minimizes suffering.

Gov. Chris Christie has said he is deeply concerned about the legislation. His office will not comment on it until it reviews the final bill, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Christie’s term ends in 2018.

Under the proposal, patients would have to make two oral requests and a written request for the drugs, with the oral requests at least 15 days apart. Then the attending physician would have to provide his or her patient with information about the practice and alternatives, including hospice care. A request does not have to be carried out.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in only a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Montana. California Gov. Jerry Brown was the latest governor to sign a “right-to-die” proposal into law last October.

Earlier this year, Death with Dignity Executive Director Peg Sandeen told Life Matters Media she believes the Northeast will see a major shift in support for the practice.

“I thought before California went, I really thought that New England would see a swing towards ‘Death with Dignity,'” she said.

Despite calls for legalization from a growing number of proponents and others who came to support physician-assisted suicide in the wake of the high-profile death of Brittany Maynard, the American Medical Association remains firmly opposed to such policy.

– Image courtesy Compassion & Choices