By Sean Crowley
“…As medical science allows people to live longer, there are steps a compassionate society can and must take when longer doesn’t mean better.”
That is an excerpt of an editorial in Sunday’s Times of Trenton endorsing the Death with Dignity for the Terminally Ill Act sponsored by the New Jersey Assembly’s Assistant Majority Leader John Burzichelli.
The impassioned testimony of his cancer-stricken sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, in February of last year helped convince the Health and Senior Services Committee to approve the bill. Unfortunately, Claudia died four months later, before the full legislature could vote on it.
New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The [Newark] Star Ledger, endorsed the bill when it was first introduced, and did so again during debate in 2014. Then, in a third editorial, the paper praised Burzichelli for stewarding the legislation to ensure its passage, opining that “[t]he alternative — laws that require terminal patients to endure needless suffering — is simply cruel.” The [Cherry Hill] Courier Post had also editorialized for the death with dignity law, making The Times of Trenton the third New Jersey newspaper to endorse the legislation. The Times of Trenton editorial cited popular support for the bill, its legislative safeguards and the successful models in other states.
“If you were to become terminally ill and have fewer than six months to live, would you or would you not want the legal option to end your own life with the assistance of a physician?
“The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll put that question to more than 800 New Jersey adults in July. More than half the respondents said yes.
“Yes, they said: The state should pass a bill allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs. Yes, they want the ability to face death on their own terms, at their own time, in their own homes when the pain becomes intolerable and the nights unendurable.
“Cruelly, the means are just beyond their grasp in New Jersey, where such a bill in the state legislature was pulled in June when its sponsor, Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), realized he couldn’t win the 41 votes it needed.
“The Death with Dignity for the Terminally Ill Act (A2270) contains crucial safeguards designed to reassure opponents haunted by the specter of rash decisions and irresponsible medical responses …
Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana already allow doctors to help put an end to the excruciating pain the dying too often experience. Let’s have the conversation in New Jersey, and let’s follow their lead.”