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New Jerseyans with Life-Shortening Diseases Praise Senate Committee Chairman for Scheduling Vote on Aid in Dying Bill

Thank Sen. Vitale for Ending 11-Month Delay to Act on Bill Supported by 63% of State Residents

New Jerseyans with life-shortening or terminal diseases and others who watched loved ones die in agony praised state Senator Joseph F. Vitale (Woodbridge) for scheduling a Senate Health Committee vote on the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S1072/A1504) on Feb. 7. The vote would end an 11-month delay in legislative action on the bill since the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved it last March.

The legislation would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to have the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable, so they can die peacefully in their sleep. Washington, D.C. and seven states — representing nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population with 40 years of combined experience — have successfully implemented this medical practice: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Compassion & Choices NJ volunteer advocate Laurie Wilcox, whose rheumatoid arthritis has invaded her lung tissue that requires her to use an oxygen tank to breathe most of the day.

“Words cannot express my gratitude to Chairman Vitale for scheduling this vote and the feeling of relief it gives me knowing this Act in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act is one step closer to passage,” said Rumson resident Susan Boyce, who has a terminal lung disease and recorded a digital video ad for Compassion & Choices urging New Jerseyans to ask the legislature to pass the bill.

“I know there’s going to come a time at the end of this illness where I’m going to encounter suffering. I would very much be relieved if I had the option to have medical aid in dying to die peacefully in my sleep,” she said in the video (see bit.ly/SusanBoyceVideo).

In 2016, the Assembly passed an aid in dying bill and the Senate Health Committee approved it, but the full Senate did not vote on the legislation because then-Governor Chris Christie promised to veto it. A 2-1 majority (63% vs. 29%) of New Jersey voters, 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. Most major newspapers statewide have endorsed the legislation.

“We are deeply grateful to Chairman Vitale for responding to the vast majority of his constituents and to voters across the state by scheduling this vote,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “I hope his colleagues follow his lead and prevent the small percentage of medical aid-in-dying opponents from overriding the wishes of most New Jerseyans who want this end-of-life, palliative care option.”

“As nurses with life-shortening diseases, my sister and I know how badly people can suffer at life’s inevitable end, so I thank Chairman Vitale for scheduling a vote on this bill to allow people to have the option to peacefully end needless suffering at the end of life,” said Clark resident Laurie Wilcox, LPN.

Wilcox, whose rheumatoid arthritis has invaded her lung tissue that requires her to use an oxygen tank to breathe most of the day, and her sister Melissa Wilcox, RN, of Hamilton Township, who has terminal, small cell lung cancer, also recorded a digital video ad asking New Jerseyans to urge the legislature to pass the bill: “At the end stage of my disease, I do not want to suffer through air hunger in the very last days of my life,” said Laurie in the video. “I need the lawmakers to act right now because I may not have tomorrow,” said Melissa in the video (see bit.ly/WilcoxSistersVideo).

“I thank Chairman Vitale for making this decision because it validates the last six years I have been working to advance medical aid-in-dying legislation,” said Debra Dunn, an operating room nurse in Paramus, who launched the digital video ad campaign on Oct. 1 asking New Jerseyans to urge the legislature to pass the bill, by vividly describing how her husband, Herb, died in agony from pancreatic cancer in 2013 because he did not have access to medical aid in dying: “My husband was constantly in pain,” she said in the video (see bit.ly/DebraDunnVideo).

Collectively, the digital video ads have generated nearly 2.5 million impressions, nearly 300,000 30-second video views and more than 8,400 video post engagements. The digital video ads will continue until lawmakers enact the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law.


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