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New Jersey General Assembly Judiciary Committee Passes Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act

Advocates, Supporters and Terminally Ill New Jerseyans in Attendance at State Capitol to Urge Passage of Medical Aid-in-Dying Legislation

Susan Boyce speaks in support of the bill as Rev. Gillian McAllister looks on. Photo courtesy of Carlos Iván Merino. 

The New Jersey General Assembly Judiciary Committee today voted 5 to 2 to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A.1504/S.1072), New Jersey’s proposed medical aid-in-dying legislation. Medical aid in dying gives mentally capable, terminally ill individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and self-ingest medication to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Championed by Assemblymembers John J. Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), Tim Eustace (D- Bergen) and Joe Danielsen (D-Franklin Township), the bill will now move on to a General Assembly vote.

The campaign to advance the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act  is powered by thousands of New Jersey supporters, coalitions and volunteers, including the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the New Jersey Psychological Association, as well as members of the state’s medical, scientific and religious communities.

“I’m grateful that the bill sponsors have been such diligent champions of this bill and that the Committee has recognized the peace of mind that this end-of-life care option provides,” said Susan Boyce, a Rumson, New Jersey resident living with a progressive, terminal, genetic disease; Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. “While I continue to do all I can to live my life as I wish, should my treatment options become exhausted, I would like my life to end the way I’ve lived: surrounded by my friends and loved ones. The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act will give me the freedom to achieve a peaceful death.”

Debra Dunn, Paramus, New Jersey resident and operating room nurse who lost her husband to terminal pancreatic cancer, stated: “My husband did not live long enough to witness this important vote today regarding the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.  I know he was there in spirit with me as I advocated for others to seek passage of the medical aid-in-dying bill so that other terminally ill New Jerseyans can have peace of mind knowing they will be able to die on their own terms should their suffering become unbearable.”

Today’s vote is a tribute to the advocacy of the people of New Jersey, especially the terminally ill who fought to advance this legislation even in their final days, but were not able to utilize it,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “We commend the Committee today for putting us on the path to passing a law to provide all terminally ill, mentally competent New Jerseyans who seek it with this important end-of-life care option.”

If enacted, A.1504/S.1072 would poise New Jersey  to join the six other states as well as the District of Columbia in enacting medical aid-in-dying laws. Oregon, where medical aid in dying has been authorized for two decades (since 1997), has been joined since then by Washington (2008), Montana (2009), Vermont (2013), California (2015), Colorado (2016), and the District of Columbia (2017).