As 1st Anniversary of NJ Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Nears, 42 Healthcare Facilities Have Adopted Patient-Supportive Policies
Facilities across State Now Allow Doctors to Participate in the Law
Two days before the 1st anniversary of New Jersey’s Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, Compassion & Choices reports that 42 large medical centers, hospitals, and hospices across the state have adopted policies allowing their doctors to offer this peaceful dying option to terminally ill patients who request it. The nonprofit, end-of-life care advocacy organization led the grassroots campaign to pass the law, which took effect a year ago this Saturday on Aug. 1, 2019.
Compassion & Choices has a free online “Find Care” tool that enables New Jerseyans to find the nearest healthcare facility with this patient-supportive policy. It shows that every New Jersey resident lives within 50 miles or less from a patient-supportive healthcare system.
“Since the law took effect, I have felt free to enjoy the rest of my life without worrying about needlessly suffering in agony when it ends,” said Rumson resident Susan Boyce, who has a progressive, terminal genetic disease called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, that requires her to use an oxygen tank because her lung function is below 30 percent (read and watch Susan’s full story at bit.ly/SusanBoyceOpedVideo). “For the last year up until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I have been traveling with my family and enjoying outdoor activities like camping. Before the law passed, I didn’t have the peace of mind to do that.”
Since Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law on April 12, 2019, Compassion & Choices has trained more than 500 New Jersey healthcare providers about the medical practice and fielded hundreds of inquiries from New Jersey residents about the new law. The organization has also created online tools and resources for patients and doctors, including our online Plan Your Care Resource Center that now includes a COVID-19 specific toolkit to help people navigate end-of-life care during the pandemic.
These tools complement the guidance provided by the New Jersey Department of Health for healthcare providers and patients about how to participate in the law and the forms required to do so on its website at nj.gov/health/advancedirective/maid. The New Jersey Hospital Association has posted a law implementation toolkit for healthcare providers on its website at njha.com/resources/toolkits/the-nj-aid-in-dying-for-the-terminally-ill-implementation-toolkit.
“Working in partnership with state health officials, despite the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve made significant progress in implementing the law, so eligible terminally ill patients can use medical aid in dying and avoid needless suffering at the end of life if they want,” said Kim Callinan, who grew up in Bergen County and is president and CEO of Compassion & Choices. “We know from experience implementing medical aid-in-dying laws in other states that our work to help educate healthcare providers and patients has only just begun. It will take a sustained effort over the next few years to fully implement this law.”
“New Jersey physicians are closely following federal and state guidelines for maintaining the highest standard of care during the COVID-19 crisis, including the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying,” said Deborah Pasik, M.D. FACR, a physician in Morristown, New Jersey. “I am proud that the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Hospital Association have provided leadership to physicians across the state who want to be able to offer this option to their terminally ill patients.”
New Jersey is among 10 jurisdictions nationwide that authorize mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to have the option to request and receive a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable. The other nine jurisdictions that authorize medical aid in dying are California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana (via state Supreme Court ruling), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions have more than 40 years of experience successfully implementing this medical practice and represent more than one out of five people (22%) nationwide.