Editorial Support for Reinstating New Jersey’s Medical Aid-in-Dying Law after Brief Suspension
On Aug. 8, one week after the New Jersey’s Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act took effect on Aug. 1, a lone doctor who is also a rabbi filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law that Compassion & Choices campaigned for seven long years for the legislature to pass it.
His objections to the law are wide-ranging, including that the law infringed on his religious freedom. He argued that the law was forcing him to participate in the “machinery of death” because it requires him to transfer a patient’s records to another physician. He asked a state court judge to immediately suspend the law until the lawsuit ended, which could take years. Unfortunately, a state superior court agreed to issue a temporary restraining order that would have suspended the law until at least the next court hearing on Oct. 23.
But thanks to action by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, with strong support from Governor Phil Murphy, a New Jersey appellate court granted his request to overturn the lower court, and reinstated the law on Aug. 27, only 13 days after it had been suspended.
Now the law is back in effect while the lawsuit, now including a Hindu pharmacist as a plaintiff, proceeds.
Unfortunately, the brief suspension of the law caused enormous suffering for at least one New Jerseyan, Robin Granat, who is dying from an incurable brain tumor. Her psychotherapist husband, Dr. Jay Granat, wrote an oped published two weeks ago, while the law still was suspended, reporting that his wife is “in constant pain…confused, and fatigued, and she has made it quite clear that she does not want to go on.” But now it’s too late for her complete the time-consuming process to use the law.
Less than a week after the appellate court reinstated the law, four New Jersey newspapers praised the ruling, a vivid demonstration of the state’s strong support for its new medical aid-in-dying law.
The Star-Ledger/NJ.com, “For the dying, relief from the NJ courts,” Aug. 28, 2019
“The new state law that allows horribly sick patients in New Jersey to end their lives peacefully, under the care of a doctor, was drafted with great respect for those who object on moral or religious grounds …
“So, it comes as tremendous relief that the state court of appeals firmly rejected the first legal challenge to the [New Jersey medical aid-in-dying] law, which came from an Orthodox Jewish doctor in Bergen County, Dr. Yosef Glassman. He cited the Torah in his complaint and managed to win a lower court decision two weeks ago that briefly blocked the law’s implementation while his challenge is heard.
“The moral of this story comes from Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, the law’s sponsor: “I have my beliefs, you have your beliefs, but don’t use the machinery of government to impose them on others,” he says.”
Burlington County Times, “Leave the dying alone,” Aug. 29, 2019
“[Dr. Yosef] Glassman’s lawsuit also ignores the fact that the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was seven years in the making and the result of a lot of hard work in addressing every possible concern.”
NJ.com, “Keep your morals out of my medicine,” Sept. 1, 2019
“There is no more personal decision a terminally ill person has to make than deciding when they’ve had enough. To have someone from outside your own family, whom you have never met, petition the courts to prolong your suffering so they can make a moral grandstand is shameful. The court [sic] did the right thing by telling the opponents of death with dignity to take their performative outrage and stuff it.”
The Press of Atlantic City, “Helping people die a NJ benefit that requires perpetual vigilance,” Sept. 2, 2019
“New Jersey deserves credit for allowing adults under carefully controlled circumstances to choose to limit the suffering at the end of their lives.”
Compassion & Choices will continue to publicly defend New Jersey’s medical aid-in-dying law and pursue any viable legal avenues to protect it on behalf of the more than 2-1 majority of New Jerseyans who want this end-of-life care option to die peacefully.