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NJ Senate Committee Approves Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act

Bill to Authorize Medical Aid in Dying as End-of-Life Care Option Cleared for Senate Action

(Trenton, NJ – Nov. 3, 2016) The New Jersey State Senate’s Health Committee today approved a bill for full Senate consideration that would give terminally ill, adult residents the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying. The 5 to 3 vote with one abstention to approve the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Act (S2474/A2451) follows the Assembly’s passage of the bill two weeks ago by a 41-28 vote.

Should it become law, the legislation would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with fewer than six months to live the option to request a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that can be self-administered – if and when the individual chooses – to end unbearable suffering and bring about a peaceful and humane death.

“With today’s vote, this bill has cleared yet another important hurdle toward providing terminally New Jerseyans with a humane, medical option to reduce the pain and heartache that so often marks the final stage of their lives,” said Ethan Andersen, New Jersey Field Director for Compassion & Choices. “We thank the committee members for their support, and are hopeful their Senate colleagues will stand behind them to help provide end-of-life choices to their neighbors.”

The legislation has a large coalition of supporters, 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. In addition, 63 percent of New Jersey residents said they would support an aid-in-dying bill that “would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription to end their lives,” according to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

“From the beginning, my fellow advocates and I have had only had one goal: to win the right to choose how we spend our final days,” said Susan Boyce, a terminally ill supporter of the bill from Rumson, N.J.  “Thanks to the Senate Health Committee, we now stand another day closer to making that a reality. We are hopeful that the remainder of the Senate and Gov. Christie have heard our voices, and we look forward to continuing our efforts on behalf of all New Jersey residents.”

The Senate Health Committee’s vote adds to a wave of momentum in advancing similar legislation around the country. On Tuesday, the D.C. Council initially approved an aid-in-dying bill in the nation’s capital, and a citizen-led referendum to authorize this end-of-life option qualified for the Colorado ballot this Tuesday, Nov. 8. California in 2015, Vermont in 2013, Montana in 2009, Washington in 2008, and Oregon in 1997 previously authorized medical aid in dying.  There is no evidence of abuse or coercion in any of these five states.