Governor Murphy Signs 'Death with Dignity' Legislation into Law

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NEW JERSEY -

Governor Phil Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act on Friday, April 12th that allows terminally ill New Jersey residents to end their lives peacefully, with dignity and at their own discretion.

“Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do,” 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 allows New Jersey residents to obtain and self-administer medication that would end their lives.

According to patch.com, the bill has built-in safeguards to keep the process safe:

  • The bill defines a "terminal disease" as an irreversible illness that has been medically confirmed and will result in a patient's death within six months.
  • It would cover: an adult resident of New Jersey who is capable and has been determined by the patient's attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and has voluntarily expressed a wish to die.
  • The bill would require patients suffering from a terminal disease to first verbally request a prescription from their attending physician, followed by a second verbal request at least 15 days later.
  • The attending physician would have to offer the patient a chance to rescind the request.
  • A consulting physician would then be called upon to certify the original diagnosis and reaffirm the patient is capable of making a decision.
  • It would also require one request in writing signed by two witnesses. A valid request for medication must be signed and dated by the patient and witnessed by at least two individuals who, in the patient's presence, attest that the patient is capable and is acting voluntarily to sign the request.
  • Only the patient would be permitted to administer the drug to themselves. At least one of the witnesses must be a person who is not: 1) a relative of the patient; 2) entitled to any portion of the estate of the patient; 3) an owner, operator, or employee of a health care facility where the patient is receiving treatment, or 4) the patient's physician.
  • The bill requires that the patient's attending physician recommend that the patient participate in a consultation concerning additional treatment opportunities, palliative care, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control options, and provide the patient with a referral to a health care professional qualified to discuss these options.
  • The attending physician would be required to document the recommendation in the patient's medical record, and indicate whether the patient chose to participate in the consultation, and whether the patient is receiving palliative, comfort or hospice care.

“There is no good reason for terminally ill patients to be forced to endure prolonged pain and suffering if they make the choice to end their lives with dignity,” Senator Nicholas P. Scutari said. “This law respects the free will of terminally ill patients and provides a humane and dignified process for those qualified to end their lives. I am very proud of New Jersey to support this law and the compassion it provides to those suffering.”

New Jersey is the eighth state to allow assisted suicide for the terminally ill to end their life with the assistance of medical professionals.

The bill will take effect on August 1st of this year.

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