New Jersey’s assisted suicide law goes into effect today (Aug. 1), making it the eighth U.S. state or territory with assisted suicide on the books.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act on April 12 after both legislative chambers passed it by a slim margin. In signing the bill, Murphy cited “humanity, respect and compassion” as reasons for supporting it.
“Today is a very sad day for the Garden State!” New Jersey Right to Life said in a tweet. “N.J. will let terminally ill patients decide when it’s time to die, beginning Thursday.”
New Jersey joins California; Colorado; Hawaii; Oregon; Washington; Vermont; and Washington, D.C., in permitting physicians to write lethal prescriptions for people deemed to be suffering by the government.
“This State affirms the right of a qualified terminally ill patient, protected by appropriate safeguards, to obtain medication that the patient may choose to self-administer in order to bring about the patient’s humane and dignified death,” the law states.
In opposing the law, New Jersey Right to Life said: “As we have seen in other states where assisted suicide is legal, health insurance companies (including Medicaid providers) who are always looking to cut costs will deny patients treatments to save and sustain their lives, but instead offer assisted suicide drugs because it is cheaper to do so. The ‘so-called’ safeguards … are hollow and do not protect the patient.”
The law stipulates that terminally ill patients must have a six-month prognosis and must be at least 18 years old to qualify for an assisted death procedure.
Monica Burke with the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, wrote the law is “a direct attack upon humanity, dignity and respect for every human being—whatever lawmakers might say,” and such laws in other countries have tended to morph into greater latitude for euthanasia of vulnerable people.
“Every human life has value, precisely because it is human,” Burke said. “Physician-assisted suicide tells us that some lives are simply not worth living, and that lie is having a devastating effect on our health care system, familial and doctor-patient relationships and our culture overall.
“Who qualifies for physician-assisted suicide has no natural limit. New Jersey is limiting practice to the terminally ill with a six-month prognosis—for now.
“But what about those who expect to live for another seven months? Eight? A year? Why limit this practice to the terminally ill? What about other kinds of challenging or painful circumstances?”