New Jersey newspapers have published 18 opinion pieces urging state lawmakers to aid in dying bill in last year!

March 19, 2019

Dr. Deborah Pasik of Morristown, NJ

New Jersey newspapers have now published 18 columns, editorials and opeds since last March urging the state legislature to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S1072/A1504). This compassionate bill that would give terminally adults the option to peacefully end intolerable suffering.

The Asbury Park Press, Courier News, Daily Record, Home News Tribune, New Jersey Law Journal, Star-Ledger and Times of Trenton have editorialized in support of the legislation.

The latest opinion piece is an oped published by yesterday by a Morristown physician, Dr. Deborah Pasik, co-signed by 25 other New Jersey doctors, endorsing the bill, rebutting opponents’ claims about it and explaining why most physicians nationwide support medical aid in dying.

The bill is included on the Assembly’s legislative agenda for March 25. The Senate legislative agenda for March 25 has not been posted yet.

A 2-1 majority of New Jersey voters (63% vs. 29%), 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.

“The majority of voters and newspapers want the legislature to give terminally ill New Jerseyans this palliative care option to die peacefully when no other option will provide relief from unbearable suffering,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “Lawmakers have debated this issue for nearly seven years, so now it is time to pass it because terminally ill state residents cannot afford to wait any longer.”

Below is a list of all these opinion pieces, with key excerpts making the case for the legislature to pass the bill, for Gov. Phil Murphy to sign it, and rebutting opponents’ claims. Star-Ledger oped by Morristown physician Dr. Deborah Pasik, “These 26 N.J. doctors say they should be able to help dying patients end their suffering,” March 18, 2019

“As a practicing physician in New Jersey for the past 30 years, I have witnessed countless people and their families grapple with a terminal diagnosis, navigate the medical system (consultants, treatments, hospice, and palliative care) and finally die. Sometimes, the course is peaceful, but sometimes it is horrific, in spite of all of the current services and medications we have to offer …

“While there are no statewide surveys of New Jersey physicians’ opinions on this issue, 58 percent of physicians nationwide say that medical aid in dying “should be made legal for terminally ill patients,” according to a 2018 Medscape survey

“Opponents’ alleged accounts of insurance companies denying care and suggesting medical aid in dying are dubious because they fail to provide any evidence to support them. According to a New England Journal of Medicine research article, co-authored by a medical aid-in-dying opponent: “there are no substantial cost savings” for medical aid in dying.” Star-Ledger column by editorial page editor Tom Moran, “To live or not to live? The decision should be yours,” Feb. 10, 2019

“The compelling testimony…was matched by some that was inane, even maddening …

“A doctor from Nevada, Brian Callister…testified that insurance companies had denied coverage for treatment of two patients of his with terminal diseases, and asked if he was aware of [medical aid-in-dying] options in California and Oregon instead …

“I pulled him aside to ask the obvious question: Does he have any evidence that those insurers would have covered his prescribed treatment if medical aid in dying were banned everywhere?
‘You can’t know that,’ he conceded.”

The Record column by editorial page editor Bruce Lowry, “On death with dignity and the final things,” Feb. 9, 2019

“This particular bill, modeled on the Oregon model passed in 1997, makes the process as deliberative as possible …

“…the process should be less restrictive when it comes to end-of-life decisions. It should be, as closely as we can ascertain, based first and foremost on the patient’s wishes. All else, religion, ethics, insurance considerations – even the wishes of would-be survivors — should fall second to what a mentally competent patient wants.

“…the “aid in dying” act being considered in New Jersey would not force anyone to do anything. It would simply give folks the option of death with dignity, if they so choose.” Star-Ledger oped by Rutherford resident Jessica Guenzel “Watch: A daughter says her mom lost everything, even the chance to die peacefully at home,” Feb. 7, 2019

“My mom knew she was dying. We did, too. And all we could do was sit there and wait and watch helplessly as she deteriorated…and begged. Death wasn’t coming fast enough and we could do nothing about it …

“There’s someone in New Jersey, right now, who is hearing, perhaps for the first time, the begging of a dying loved one to help them end their suffering …

“I beg our state lawmakers to not let my mother’s desperate end be in vain – to help me belatedly fulfill my promise, by passing the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, so dying New Jersey residents don’t have to suffer needlessly at life’s inevitable end, as she did.”

Asbury Park Press oped by terminally ill Rumson resident Susan Boyce, “N.J. should pass overdue Aid in Dying bill,” Jan. 8, 2019

“When you have a terminal disease, every day is precious, so you spend your free time on the things that deeply matter to you. That’s why I have spent some of mine advocating for the New Jersey Legislature to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A1504/S1072), so that when I die, I will have the option to take prescription medication to peacefully end my suffering if it becomes intolerable…

“What I think people most misunderstand about medical aid in dying is that terminally ill adults who would be eligible under this bill to use this option are not eager to die. They want to live, but they are dying. What we want to do is avoid needless suffering at the last little bit of the dying process. Just having this option available brings peace in and of itself, even if it’s never exercised…” Star-Ledger oped by Essex County attorney Ed Barocas, “I have disabilities. It offends me the state needs to ‘protect’ me, limit my right to make decisions. Support ‘Aid in Dying,’” Nov. 30, 2018

“As someone who has a disability, something that concerns and in fact offends me is the contradictory notion that in order to protect people with illness or disability, we need to paternalistically limit their right to make decisions and prevent them from having options…

“For six years, the legislature has debated this legislation that polling shows New Jerseyans support by more than a two-to-one margin. It is time to conclude this endless debate and for the legislature to pass this compassionate bill…” Star-Ledger oped by Clark resident Linda Wilcox, “My sister and I are nurses who are disabled by life-shortening diseases. Let us die our own way,” Nov. 13, 2018

“My sister and I are nurses who are disabled by life-shortening diseases. As a result, we
know from first-hand experience about both the limits of modern medicine at life’s end
and the challenges of living with disabling medical conditions…

“Neither of us wants to die, but we know we are going to die long before the end of our
natural lives. When that time is imminent, and if our suffering becomes unbearable, we
both would like to have the opportunity to die in our own way, at home, with our family
and friends around us…

“All my sister and I ask is that our lawmakers not allow a minority of New Jerseyans to deny this option to a majority of their constituents like us who want it.” Star-Ledger oped by Princeton Junction resident Elane Gutterman, “As a health researcher who has seen a loved one suffer through illness, ‘aid in dying’ is a humane option,” Oct. 27, 2018

My 77-year-old grandfather was bedridden, often in pain and uncomfortable. After a long, full life, he no longer wanted to live under these circumstances. He told my father, he did not think it was right that the law did not allow him to peacefully end his suffering.

“…as a New Jersey-based health researcher, I recognized that the best available guidance for what medical aid in dying could look like in New Jersey was past experience in other states. In this case, I reviewed summary data reflecting 20 years of experience with Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.

“According to a Journal of Medical Ethics report about the Oregon Death with Dignity Act: “Rates of assisted dying in Oregon…showed no evidence of heightened risk for…the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations.” Star-Ledger oped by Dan Diaz, “My newlywed wife ended her life on her terms. Brittany Maynard advocated for aid-in-dying laws,” Oct. 22, 2018

“More than two dozen states have considered medical aid-in-dying bills since last year…

“It is important for lawmakers to recognize that medical aid in dying does not cause more people to die. It just allows more dying people to peacefully stop needless suffering at life’s inevitable end.” Star-Ledger column by editorial page editor Tom Moran, “I saw my sister’s terrible decline close up. We should allow death with dignity,” Oct. 14, 2018

“[New Jersey Archbishop] Tobin’s beliefs on [opposing medical aid in dying] are based on religious conviction, and I respect that. But to use the power of government to force that moral paradigm on me, or my sister, strikes me as outrageous.

“I can respect [Not Dead Yet New England Regional Director John] Kelly’s attitude about the disabled, too. But the concern is theoretical and hasn’t been borne out in states that allow [medical aid in dying]. Measured against [my sister] Lizzy’s concrete agonies, it’s not a close call.”

Asbury Park Press, Burlington County Times, Press of Atlantic City, and The Star-Ledger published syndicated column by cancer survivor Carl Golden, former communications director for Gov. Christie Whitman, “’Aid in dying’ is a choice sanctioned by physician,” Oct. 8, 2018

“Twenty-three years ago, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, a malignancy which, if left unaddressed surgically, would lead to my death…

“Had I survived surgery but received a prognosis of an abbreviated future, I believe I would have considered and probably followed through with aiding my own departure, had such a course been available.” Star-Ledger oped by Paramus nurse Debra Dunn, “My husband died in agony, and he didn’t have to. State must pass Aid-in-Dying bill,” Sept. 27, 2018

“For those people who do not want this option, that’s their right and prerogative. But no one should have the right to prevent terminally ill New Jerseyans from having the option to peacefully end their suffering…

“Pancreatic cancer is incurable, ruthless disease — a steep decline into hell. My husband deserved better than to live his painful last dying days in the way he did, which are forever engraved and ingrained in my memory.”

The Daily Record editorial, “Supporting Aid in Dying bill a compassionate move,” Sept. 24, 2018

“The Aid in Dying Bill provides patients and families with some peace of mind that when the end is near and the suffering is great, they have options that can be pursued with dignity and compassion. That’s worth approving.”

Courier News and Home News Tribune editorial, Supporting Aid in Dying bill a compassionate move,” Sept. 24, 2018

“This bill isn’t just about ending life but improving life in some small way in a patient’s final days…

“But this is about freedom to choose, and patients with less than six months to live certainly deserve a choice in how they die.”

The Asbury Park Press editorial, Support compassionate Aid in Dying bill,” Spt. 24, 2018

“The experiences of other states have shown that patient attitudes improve just by knowing the aid-in-dying option is available to them.”

Times of Trenton editorial, “N.J. needs to allow the terminally ill the right to a peaceful death,” Sept. 19, 2018

“Evidence from other states shows that Aid-In-Dying bills have improved the mental health in patients, and that even knowing that the option is available is often enough.

Our legislators have the power to make this happen. We pray they have the human decency to do so.”

New Jersey Law Journal editorial, “Time Has Come For Aid-in-Dying Statute,” Sept. 3, 2018

“The prerequisites for ending one’s life under the proposed New Jersey statute are virtually identical to those contained in its previous drafts and, remarkedly [sic], to those of all U.S. jurisdictions which sanction such relief…

“We believe the choice of whether to live or die under circumstances where an individual has no quality of life and no reasonable hope of obtaining one rests solely with the person who is suffering yet competent to make that choice.”

Times of Trenton editorial, “Let the terminally ill decide when they want to die,” March 15, 2018

“Receptive to past criticism, namely the concern that terminally ill patients were not aware of alternatives such as hospice and palliative care, the act’s sponsors rewrote previous versions to include these options…

“With a new Legislature and a new governor, the Aid in Dying Act could move closer to reality, closer to ensuring dignity and control at a time when people need them most.”

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.