New Jersey reports 12 assisted suicide deaths in first 5 months after legalization

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New Jersey assisted suicide act—“Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act”–was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on April 12, 2019. It went into effect on August 1, 2019.

An injunction was granted on August 14, but the injunction was rescinded on August 27. What has happened since?

According to the New Jersey assisted suicide report, 12 people died by assisted suicide in the first five months  following legalization.

The report only provides basic data about the people who died. The report states that six men and six women died. Seven had cancer, ten of the twelve died at home, one died in a nursing home, and one died in someone else’s home. 

The report does not provide information about how many people were prescribed lethal drugs. There is no information, in the report, concerning why people asked for assisted suicide and no concerns about possible abuse of the law. 

Similar to other assisted suicide laws, the data comes from the reports that are filed by the physicians who prescribed the lethal drugs. There is no independent or third-party involvement to ensure that the reports are accurate. 

There is also no requirement that an independent witness be present at the death to ensure that the law was followed. No one will know if the lethal drugs were administered (euthanasia) rather than self-administered (assisted suicide). Euthanasia is legalized by creating an exception to homicide in the criminal code.

The New Jersey law requires doctors to declare assisted suicide deaths as a natural death. The law specifically states that the death: “shall not constitute patient abuse or neglect, suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, euthanasia, or homicide under any law of this State.”

The law clearly protects doctors who are willing to cause death, rather than protecting the person who is living with vulnerable conditions. 

Even though assisted suicide has been legal in New Jersey for more than a year, the New Jersey Medical Association, disability rights groups, and others, oppose the law. People who oppose assisted suicide are hoping that the upcoming election results in a change.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted wit permission.