On Friday, Governor Phil Murphy signed the Aid in Dying for the Terminal Act, making New Jersey the seventh state in the United States to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill. According to The Hill, the legalization of assisted suicide goes into effect on August 1.
“Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do. 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,” Murphy said in a statement as he explained his decision to move forward.
“Over the course of seven years, we’ve heard countless heartbreaking stories of terminally ill patients and their families yearning to make a personal choice that simply was not provided for under law,” Assemblyman John Burzichelli added to the statement.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, and Assemblyman Joe Danielsen also issued similar statements that the decision to sign the Aid in Dying for the Terminal Act stemmed from a place of wanting more humane options for individuals suffering from painful terminal conditions they will never recover from.
Under the new law, qualifying patients will receive life-ending medication they can administer on their own to end their lives. Prior to receiving the medication, their primary physician must conclude the patient’s life expectancy will not exceed six months.
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The physician must also feel that the patient is mentally equipped to make the decision. Furthermore, it must also be concluded that the patient came to this decision on their own with no input or pressure from anyone else.
The law will also require the patient to ask for the life-ending medication on two different occasions before they can receive it. The purpose of this regulation is to give the patient the opportunity to change their mind.
During his statement about the new law, Murphy acknowledged that as a Catholic, he had mixed feelings about the decision to legalize assisted suicide. He, however, also admitted that his faith could lead him to think a certain way about assisted suicide that the general public – possibly of other religions – would not necessarily agree with. Ultimately, he decided the most humane option was for the terminally ill to have the freedom to make their own decisions.
To date, Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia all have similar laws in place giving terminally ill patients the freedom to end their life if they meet regulations set in place by the individual states.