A bill to authorize medical aid in dying in New Jersey passed an important hurdle today. The New Jersey State Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 8-2 in a bi-partisan fashion to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A2451). A vote in the full Assembly is expected at an upcoming voting session.
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.
A 2015 Rutgers Eagleton poll shows that by more than a 2-1 margin (63% to 29%), New Jersey residents stand behind an aid-in-dying bill that “would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription to end their lives.”
Dozens of aid-in-dying supporters from around the state travelled to the State House to champion the measure.
“If I do not get on the transplant list, I would like the choice and peace of mind that comes with the option of aid in dying, even if I never use it,” said Susan Boyce, a Rumson, NJ resident with a terminal genetic disease – Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. “The Assembly’s vote today makes it easier for myself and others to fully live out the time we have left without the fear of a long, painful death.”
Passage of the bill through the Assembly Appropriations Committee adds to the growing momentum behind similar legislation around the country. A Washington D.C. Council panel on Wednesday advanced a similar bill in the nation’s capital, and an initiative that would authorize aid in dying is currently the most popular measure on the Colorado ballot this November. Currently, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont have authorized medical aid in dying for terminally ill residents.
“My sister and I seek the right to die with dignity – for ourselves and for each other,” said Laurie Wilcox, a retired nurse from Clark, NJ. Laurie and her sister Melissa suffer from small cell lung cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, respectively. “We continue to count our blessings, enjoy our time with family and live our days the best we can, though we both know it is a matter of time before one of us will suffer the loss of a lifetime. Today’s vote is a step towards giving my sister and I, as well as others facing terminal illness, the end-of-life options we rightfully deserve.”
“We are happy about today’s vote,” said Ethan Andersen, New Jersey Field Organizer for Compassion & Choices. “We remain absolutely committed to making New Jersey one of the next states to make medical aid in dying available. There is strong public support and most of the major newspapers in the state have editorialized in favor of this legislation. It is good law and its passage is overdue in the Garden State.”