New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is signing bills and taking names. While Democrats are thrilled with some of his recent gubernatorial decisions, there are some Republicans who have become frustrated with the pace of change. One of his recent decisions was to expand family leave provisions for residents of the Garden State, and now he’s making it legal to die with dignity for those diagnosed with a terminal illness with only six months or less to live.
Multi-Step Process to Die With Dignity
State lawmakers passed bills in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate on March 25 allowing those with terminal illness to end their own life on their own terms. The bills will go into effect later this year. The “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” allows patients with six months or less to live to self-administer life-ending medication, but there are several requirements that must be met.
People with cancer and other terminal illnesses cannot just decide they don’t want to live anymore, take a pill, and die. It’s much more involved than that and requires that two physicians agree on the prognosis of six months or less to live. After finding two doctors that agree on the diagnosis, the person would then have to ask for the life-ending medication on three separate occasions including one time in writing, which would have to be witnessed by two people. The person would then have to self-administer the medication.
Governor Murphy, who is a Democrat, said he would sign the legislation into law, and he praised the work of lawmakers “to turn New Jersey into a more dignified and empathetic state.” In a statement after the bill was passed, Murphy also said, “Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do. I look forward to signing this legislation into law.”
History of the Landmark Bill
According to deathwithdignity.org, a group of legislators introduced A1504 “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill” Act in the New Jersey Assembly on January 9, 2018. The bill was then referred to the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee and later transferred to the Judiciary Committee. On March 12, 2018, the Committee heard and passed the bill 5 to 2. On January 31, 2019, the Assembly approved amendments to the pending bill.
A companion bill, S1072, “New Jersey Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act”, was introduced on January 22, 2018. The bill was referred to New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, which passed it 6 to 3 on February 7, 2019.
A floor vote on S1072/A1504, Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, took place on March 25, 2019 in both chambers; the Assembly passed the bill 41 to 33 and the Senate 21 to 16.
At the time of this writing, six other states and Washington, D.C. have statutes on the books known as “death with dignity” statutes, and Montana made the process legal through the court system earlier this year; twenty other states are considering similar legislation at this time or later this year.