New Jerseyans with Life-Shortening Diseases Praise Senate Committee for Approving Aid in Dying Bill | Compassion & Choices

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New Jerseyans with Life-Shortening Diseases Praise Senate Committee for Approving Aid in Dying Bill

Urge Senate, Assembly to Pass Bill to Give Dying Adults the Option to Peacefully End Suffering

New Jerseyans with life-shortening or terminal diseases and others who watched loved ones die in agony praised the Senate Health Committee for approving the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S1072/A1504) by a vote of 6 to 3 for consideration by the full Senate. The vote ended an 11-month delay in legislative action on the bill since the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved it last March.

The bill 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 7 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 CEO Kim Callinan testifying before New Jersey Senate Health Committee in support of the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.

Compassion & Choices CEO Kim Callinan testifying before New Jersey Senate Health Committee in support of the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.

I stand before you today on behalf of the 63 percent of New Jersey registered voters who support passing this legislation to authorize medical aid in dying,” testified Kim Callinan, who was raised in Oradell, New Jersey and is CEO of Compassion & Choices, which is organizing the campaign to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. “People who use medical aid in dying are not deciding to die; a disease is taking their life. They are merely choosing to avoid the very worst, very last part of the dying process. Medical aid in dying is entirely optional — for both the doctor and the patient.”

“We all know that those with my disease face a terrible decline, with some people lingering breathless for months before dying,” testified Rumson resident Susan Boyce, who has a progressive, terminal, genetic disease that has reduced her lung function to 29 percent (see full story at bit.ly/SusanBoyceOpedVideo). “I would like the option of medical aid in dying as a last resort to ease my final days. I know it will give me peace of mind simply having the medication, even if I never use it. It will make it easier for me to fully live out the time I have left.”

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 the Senate Health Committee for responding to the vast majority of voters statewide by passing this compassionate legislation to give dying New Jerseyans the option to peacefully end needless suffering,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “After over six years of debate on this issue, it’s time for the Senate and Assembly to pass this urgent bill.”

“[My sister] Melissa is a registered nurse who has small cell lung cancer, which has a terminal diagnosis. I have progressive rheumatoid arthritis, which has filled my lungs with fibrous cysts,” testified Clark resident Laurie Wilcox, LPN (see full story at bit.ly/WilcoxSistersOpedVideo). “We both continue to enjoy our lives despite severe pain, medications, and limitations, but have witnessed firsthand how our final days will end. We both would find deep comfort in knowing that the choice of a peaceful end without suffering would be available if needed in our last few days.”

“My husband lost an amazing amount of weight and was emaciated – he was skin and bones with the orbital ridges bulging from his face. By the time Herb finally died, he was groaning and in pain – nothing was able to make him comfortable,” testified Paramus nurse Debra Dunn, whose husband died from pancreatic cancer in 2013 (see full story at bit.ly/DebraDunnAIDopedvideo): “I fully respect one’s choice to extend life until the last possible second. So, too, should one’s right to seek aid in dying be respected.”

Collectively, Compassion & Choices’ three digital video ads featuring Susan Boyce, the Wilcox sisters and Debra Dunn have generated nearly 2.5 million impressions, nearly 300,000 30-second video views and more than 8,400 video post engagements since the campaign launch on October 1. The digital video ads will continue until lawmakers enact the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law.


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