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Aid-in-Dying Bill Introduced in New Jersey State Senate; Debate and Vote Expected this Fall

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S2474) was introduced today by bill sponsor Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22). The bill would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult the option to request a prescription for life-ending medication that can be self-administered – if and when the individual chooses – to end unbearable suffering and bring about a peaceful and humane death.

“Aid in dying is about alleviating suffering and empowering those who are terminally ill to make their own health care decisions at the end of life,” said Senator Scutari. “Aid in dying works as intended in other states where it is authorized, and has been shown to improve overall end-of-life health care by promoting more candid end-of-life conversations between patients, families and physicians.”

The companion Assembly bill was introduced by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) as bill number A2451 earlier this year. According to last year’s survey by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 63 percent of New Jersey voters support aid-in-dying legislation.

In the previous legislative session, the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was passed out of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and passed the full Assembly in a historic vote on November 13, 2014. Bill sponsors hope to bring the bill up for another vote this fall and advocates intend to keep the pressure on.

“We thank Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman John Burzichelli for their leadership on the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” said Ethan Andersen, New Jersey State Field Director for Compassion & Choices. “New Jerseyans want this legislation because they want the same end-of-life options that are available to millions of Americans in other states. Lawmakers will continue to hear from their constituents until aid in dying is authorized.”

Five states currently authorize the option of medical aid in dying – California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. In signing California’s aid in dying bill into law last October, Governor Jerry Brown wrote, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

“Whether I used aid in dying or not, it would relieve my anxiety and fear of dying in pain,” said Laurie Wilcox of Clark, New Jersey, who has a terminal disease and advocates for the bill. “The option of aid in dying would allow me to live my final days to the fullest.”

“Watching my two sons die in pain led me to believe we need more options at the end of life,” said Delores Lewis, a senior citizen advocate in Newark, NJ. “Terminally ill adults whose pain cannot be comforted by other options deserve the right to end their own lives peacefully, surrounded by the people they love.”