By Jennifer Popik, JD, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics
At a press conference held Tuesday, Governor Chris Christie said that he opposes legislation in New Jersey that would legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. The “New Jersey Death With Dignity Act’’ is sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli.
The assisting-suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, has been at work in New Jersey on this dangerous legislation. The bill pending in New Jersey has essentially the same language that governs both Oregon and Washington. The language, developed initially for Oregon, purports to “safeguard” the practice and restrict it to the terminally ill and the competent.
However, the so-called safeguards have been widely criticized by medical groups and those in the disability rights community. More on why safeguards do not work can be found at www.nrlc.org/MedEthics/WhySafeguardsDontWork.pdf.
The bill, A3328, was approved by the Assembly health committee, and Senate hearings on the companion bill, S2259 could occur at any time until the session ends. If passed by the New Jersey legislature, the Act, as now written, would have to be submitted to Governor Christie for his approval or veto. If approved, the measure would come before voters as a ballot question.
Christie’s opposition to the bill comes as welcome news to those fighting this dangerous doctor-prescribed death bill.
Currently, doctor-prescribed suicide is legal in only Oregon, Washington, and Vermont–and may have some legal protection in the state of Montana, due to a court decision. It is critical to point out to legislators in New Jersey that the state cannot afford to legalize this dangerous and uncontrollable practice of turning doctors from healers into those who prescribe death to their most vulnerable patients.
For more on the situation in New Jersey, see “Doctor-Prescribed Suicide – Battle on Two Fronts: New Jersey and Vermont.”