Beginning today (Thursday, August 1), terminally ill adults in the state of New Jersey will be allowed to ask their doctors for prescriptions for medication to help end their lives.
The law goes into effect today after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act that was passed by lawmakers earlier this year. The bill allows for any patient who has a diagnosis of six months of fewer to live to request life-ending medication from the doctors.
The law requires the patient undergo counseling by either a psychiatrist or psychologist in order to determine whether the patient has the mental capacity to make such a decision. If approved the patient can get a prescription of a series of self-administered pills that can be taken at home.
"Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do," said Governor Murphy when he signed the bill in April. "By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face."
The bill has floated around the New Jersey legislature stretching back to 2014, but this was the first time it made it to the state Senate for a vote. It narrowly passed, with many concerned about its effects. Supporters on the other hand, including several terminally ill patients cheered the law when it was passed.
"Just having this option is a godsend that will enable me to live the rest of my life, however long it is, as fully as possible knowing I won’t have to suffer needlessly at the end," said supporter Susan Boyce, a Rumson resident who has a terminal lung disease.
Several other states in the U.S. allow physician-assisted suicide including: California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Montana, Colorado, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Another nineteen states are reportedly considering similar physician-assisted suicide bills.
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