By Jennifer Popik, J.D. Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics
The New Jersey Assembly is slated to vote on A1504, the so-called “Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Act,” on October 29.
Physician-assisted suicide has been considered by the state legislature numerous times without passing over the last many years. However, there may now be enough votes to secure passage.
The bill, promoted by Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society), would permit doctors to write lethal prescriptions for suicide for certain types of patients who requested it. However, in reality, and where legal, nearly identical laws have failed vulnerable patients.
Six states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont) and D.C. permit the dangerous practice of allowing physicians to write lethal prescriptions to certain groups of persons living with serious illness.
Where legal, assisted suicide laws permit insurance companies to pay for the lethal doses. Moreover, nothing in the law prevents insurance companies from promoting the relatively inexpensive drugs.
While the New Jersey law is promoted as “merely” providing another end of life “option,” this law can become a vehicle to push the medically vulnerable into an early death.
While the law is said to apply only to those with “terminal illness,” the legal definition of terminal illness used in New Jersey will sweep in vast groups of people who could otherwise live for many years with continued treatment. Additionally, there is no requirement that patients be screened for depression or other treatable mental illness.
According to a CNN Opinion piece written by Diane Coleman, President and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national grassroots disability rights group,
…nearly every major disability rights organization in the country that has taken a position on assisted suicide is opposed to legalization, along with the American Medical Association, palliative care specialists and hospice workers who know better than anyone that advancements in palliative care have eliminated pain as an issue for patients who receive appropriate care.
According to multiple press reports, on Oct. 1, Compassion and Choices launched a $1 million sustained digital video ad campaign featuring terminally ill advocates and their loved ones urging New Jersey lawmakers to pass the bill. You can detail the organization’s ultimate motives in the piece. Despite “death with dignity” rhetoric, involuntary euthanasia is the ultimate goal” (see here).
If you live in New Jersey now is the critical time to call your legislators. Let them know that New Jersey cannot afford to legalize this dangerous and uncontrollable practice of turning doctors from healers into those who prescribe death to their most vulnerable patients.
Find your member here.
More detailed discussion of the threat to life that assisted suicide poses can be found by clicking here.