On Monday, March 25 the New Jersey state legislature passed a new bill that would legalize the practice of assisted suicide for its state residents. This was the first time that the bill went to an actual vote in the New Jersey Senate, where it narrowly passed.
While physician-assisted suicide is not a foreign concept to many people living in the U.S., it is certainly a controversial one. Advocates emphasize the values of autonomy and self-control, while opponents believe it would fundamentally contradict the role of physicians in caring for their patients.
In addition, some fear that family members in search of insurance payments may take advantage of the patient.
Currently, the physician-assisted suicide has been legalized in only seven states in addition to the District of Columbia. These states include Hawaii, California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Montana. Maryland’s state legislature also passed a similar bill this session, but it has not yet been enacted into law.
New Jersey’s bill, similar to those passed by the other seven states, calls for many prerequisite conditions. First, the patient must be suffering from a terminally-ill condition with fewer than six months left to live.
The patient’s diagnosis, prognosis and physical condition must be assessed by a second professional for accuracy. A psychologist or psychiatrist must also ensure that the patient is mentally capable of making informed decisions for themselves.
Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, expressed his support for the newly legalized bill in a statement.
“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,” Murphy said, according to CNN.
Opponents of the bill, such as Republican Senator Robert Singer, also shared their concerns regarding the implications of this new bill.
“The bill has lasting ramifications and lots of loopholes,” Singer said, according to CNN. “We are so concerned about opioids, and not trusting doctors with opioids. But now we are willing to trust them with this.”
Currently, 19 U.S. states are still debating the legalization of assisted suicide.
How New Jersey’s passing of the new bill will affect future decisions of end-of-life care in other states remains a question to consider.