End-of-Life Care Group Praises Report by NJ Gov. Advisory Council on End-of-Life Care

Notes Passing Aid-in-Dying Bill Would Help Achieve Council’s Goal to Improve Palliative Care

Compassion & Choices today praised a new report by the New Jersey Governor’s Advisory Council on End-of-Life Care, noting that the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A1504/S1072) would help achieve the council’s recommendations to improve end-of-life care for state residents.

“A growing consensus is emerging across the nation about the importance of expert end-of-life care, especially as it relates to honoring individual wishes and preferences in the context of an advanced or terminal illness,” notes the council’s report (see “Executive Summary” on page 1). “New Jersey can benefit from laws and policies that contain provisions aimed at improving advance care planning, palliative care, hospice care and end-of-life care,” the report concludes (see “Recommendation 2; Background” on page 18).

“We know New Jersey’s Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act will both honor individuals’ wishes for end-of-life care and improve it because that is what has happened in every state that has passed a similar law,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “In fact, this legislation requires doctors to advise any terminally ill adult who requests medical aid in dying about all end-of-life care options, including hospice and palliative care. The council’s report is the capstone for legislative leaders to bring this bill to the floor on the last scheduled voting day of the year, Dec. 17, because we are confident they have the votes to pass it.”

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, the model for New Jersey’s Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, has helped spur the state to lead the nation in hospice enrollment, according to the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. More than 90 percent of terminally ill adults who have utilized the Oregon law since it took effect 20 years ago were enrolled in hospice, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

The council’s report noted one barrier to improving access to and utilization of palliative care is: “…many practitioners struggle with advance care planning and end-of-life care discussions, and shy away from delivering bad news or having honest conversations with patients near the end-of-life” (see “Barrier 2: Lack of Communication and Conversations” on page 12).

Medical aid-in-dying laws similar to the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act help solve this problem by spurring discussions between doctors and patients about all of end-of-life care options, including hospice and palliative care, as the Los Angeles Times noted last year.

In addition California and Oregon, medical aid in dying is authorized in Colorado, the District of Columbia, Montana, Vermont, Washington, and starting on Jan. 1, in Hawai’i. Collectively, these eight jurisdictions represent nearly 1 out of 5 Americans (19%) and have 40 years of combined experience safely using this end-of-life care option.

A 2-1 majority (63% vs. 29%) of New Jersey voters, including most Protestants (73%), Catholics (64%) and other non-Protestant residents (59%), support medical aid in dying, according to the most recent state poll on the issue by Rutgers-Eagleton. Major newspapers statewide have endorsed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.