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Stories From New Jersey

Dr. Kenneth Schwab

I am a private practitioner in Somers Point, NJ. I am the chair of gastroneurology. I think that this whole issue is about patient autonomy and that for the most part it is very important and it concerns the aid and dying. I think that patients deserve that law and that patients who are refused this treatment is wrong.

My initial thoughts and feelings about the bill were that some people would be concerned about a slippery slope and that people are trying to find the easy way out but from research from Oregon and other states that this issue isn’t abusive but it provides comfort to those in the latter stages of their lives and I think they would feel comfortable that there is a way out.

We have raised the concern of the bill through Compassion & Choices in NJ. Like I said before this is about patient autonomy. My mother was on hospice care, but the complications of her cancer made her naturally aid and dying without receiving the end-of life treatment.

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Linda Mastellone

I do support it because I think people have the right to end their lives. I don’t know if I would use it. If you don’t want to do it, I don’t have an opinion about it. I work on the Senate Health Committee and when Ethan Anderson approached me, I was very interested. It happened accidentally. Ethan reached out to people and I had a free afternoon. I didn’t get into the politics of it all. I know how to lobby and how to talk to officials. To me personally, this is not an issue. It’s a reproductive right. As a humanist, I should be allowed to treat this as an adult. Compassion and Choices.

My mother’s best friend had a terminal cancer and she was very ill. I was talking to my mother and she told me that her friend was in a lot of pain. The doctors always give a little extra meds. She always had that option but she couldn’t because she didn’t want to be in a hospital bed forever. She wanted to live her life. The interesting thing we learn from Oregon’s law, they take advantage of hospice.

I would make sure they knew that this was an option. I would want them to make sure they had the choice. I am a secular humanist and that humans have the right. My Senator has a lot of objections to the bill and I can’t do anything about that. I’m sure one day she will be convinced.

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Kajal Sharma

I’m a college student at Rutgers. I am a pre med major and wanting to go into public health. I was an intern for Compassion & Choices. I was canvassing and getting petitions and seeing how much people supported the cause. I did a lot of social media work for Ethan. I feel as if I am really invested in public health and public health system. I believe in patients rights and autonomy. This bill should not be hinder and arguments that bill are posing.

I thought it was a good idea. It’s been talked about before. It’s been a topic of great discussion and controversy. I thought it was pretty cool that there was so much support for it and you can help a lot people. Fortunately I have never gone through the loss of losing a family member or friend who has a terminal illness and wished they got this treatment. I have seen family members of friends, however,who have gone through this and it’s hard to see the patient themselves and their families suffer because they aren’t able to do anything about it.

Ethan and I have even started discussing a Rutgers chapter of Compassions and choices and spread the information about the bill. This is mostly about elderly people who are terminally ill and you have to have the support of the next generation. I hope that when I become a doctor and I have a patient who has fought hard against a terminal illness, I have that authority to give them the end of life treatment. It’s a person’s choice and it’s no ones business other than your own to give you orders on how you want to live or how you want to die.

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Alice Gitchell

I am a 65 year old woman, married with two adult sons. I believe that the Aid in Dying Bill in New Jersey is something that has received little media coverage, which I am shocked by because this is an important matter.

I have recently lost close friends to cancer. The most recent friend had beaten the odds for many months and managed to see her daughter get married and her other daughter graduate from college. As she saw her children reach their next goals in life, my friend was ready to die. She knew about the law in Oregon and knew she would receive assistance, unfortunately my friend knew that the Governor of NJ would veto this and was furious about it. My friend’s anger about politics in New Jersey is what motivated me to become involved with politics of Aid in Dying in NJ. Many of my friends who were diagnosed with terminal cancer were cared for my family or hospice and when hospice promised to control the pain, they were met with a terrible death.

Having gone through the hardships as I watched my friends die of cancer, I was motivated to write a letter and make a few phone calls. I organized one discussion and later a visit by a Compassion and Choices staff member to speak to the same (small) group.I do, on the other hand, wish I could do more to make this bill pass in NJ.

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Reverend Gillian McAllister

I fully support the Aid and Dying Bill of New Jersey. A part of it was watching my mother die when I was a teenager. I became a minister in the early 1990s and the watching of a few family and friends who have died of cancer, I understood what they were going through. I recently lost my husband and when he was sick with metastatic prostate cancer in 1998 and although he was 66 and in good health, he didn’t want to go through chemotherapy. This had worked for about 6-7 years until the treatments stopped working and the cancer spread. We had agreed that if the cancer spread and the treatments weren’t working, we would move to Oregon and rent out an apartment so he could be eligible for the end-of-life drugs. Unfortunately my husband was too sick to travel and he died at home surrounding himself around family and friends. I know that if he had the option that Aid and Dying gives, he would have taken it. This is the real point of Compassion & Choices: knowing that you are dying, to be able to make plans for how you want to die, at what time, in what place, saying all the things you want to tell your loved ones, and leaving peacefully and comfortable, with no regrets, no pain, no indignities.

You’re allowed to say “I know I’m dying and I’m really afraid” but be able to walk through the painful barrier that is refusing treatment for yourself. I have children and I love them but if this was to happen to me, I don’t want to be a burden for my children. I want to die peacefully. I went through a long process of listening to people’s struggle about talking about death and your separation from everything you know and now I am comfortable with it. After meeting with the senate and testifying for the senate, I was hoping that the bill in Oregon would be accepted here as well. When I heard about the the bill being passed in New Jersey, I had mixed emotions. I was happy that Aid and Dying is allowed in the state of New Jersey, but I was upset that it took so long because this would have helped my husband die in peace.

As a minister, I believe our relationship with the Divine is highly individualistic and personal. I also believe that my choices should not infringe upon anyone else nor should there infringe upon me. What is more personal than how we are to die? What we are asking for is simply that for those who wish to take a proactive stance in living and when the time comes, dying, that they be given that option. It takes away nothing from those who wish to leave it in God’s hands but gives an equally acceptable choice for those who wish to make that decision.