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NJ Assembly, Senate Pass Aid in Dying Bill After Nearly 7 Years of Debate

Seriously Ill Bill Supporters Urge Governor Murphy to Promptly Sign Bill into Law

New Jerseyans with terminal or life-shortening diseases and Compassion & Choices praised the state Assembly and Senate for passing the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S1072/A1504) after nearly seven years of debate on the issue and urged Governor Phil Murphy to promptly sign it into law. The Assembly approved the bill by a 41 to 33 vote and Senate by a 21 to 16 vote. The Senate bill would not have reached the 21 vote thresthold required for passage without the votes of three Republican senators: Kim Bateman, Declan O’Scanlon and Sam Thompson. 

This bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with 6 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 and die peacefully in their sleep. If Governor Murphy signs the bill or does not act on it within 45 days, the bill becomes the law and would take effect on the first day of the 4th month after enactment.

The final New Jersey Assembly vote on the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, March 25, 2019.

The final New Jersey Assembly vote on the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, March 25, 2019.

“I am eternally grateful to the bill author, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, for tirelessly championing this legislation for nearly seven years and for every member of the legislature who voted for it,” said bill supporter Susan Boyce, a Rumson resident who has a terminal lung disease that has reduced her lung function to 29 percent (read and watch her story at bit.ly/SusanBoyceOpedVideo). “I urge Governor Murphy not to wait 45 days and to sign this bill promptly, so I have this option to ensure I don’t have to suffer needlessly at the end of my life.”

Medical aid in dying has been successfully implemented for a combined 40 years in seven states, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, as well as Washington, D.C.

“We know opponents will apply huge pressure on Governor Murphy to veto this legislation, but we urge him to sign the bill to respect the wishes of majority of New Jersey voters who support it,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, who grew up in Oradell. “As California Governor Jerry Brown, a former seminarian, wrote when he signed the California End of Life Option Act: ‘I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.’”

A majority of state voters (63%), 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.

“My terminally ill sister Melissa and I implore Governor Murphy to sign this legislation, so we have the option to die peacefully,”said bill supporter Laurie Wilcox, a retired nurse in Clark with rheumatoid arthritis that has invaded her lung tissue and requires her to wear an oxygen tank most of the day to breathe. Her sister Melissa is also a retired nurse and has deadly small cell lung cancer (read and watch their story at: bit.ly/WilcoxSistersOpedVideo). “Neither of us knows if we would use this end-of-life care option, but just having it would give us peace of mind, so we could enjoy the rest of our lives as fully as possible.”

New Jersey newspapers have now published 18 columns, editorials and op-eds since last March urging the state legislature to pass this legislation.

“New Jersey voters have been waiting for nearly seven years for this bill to be enacted into law,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “Meanwhile, five jurisdictions have authorized medical aid in dying: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawai‘i and Vermont. Governor Murphy could bolster his legacy as a national leader on healthcare issues by signing this compassionate law.”

Compassion & Choices volunteer advocates and members of the New Jersey political affairs team thank New Jersey legislators for passing the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act on March 25, 2019.

Compassion & Choices volunteer advocates and members of the New Jersey political affairs team thank New Jersey legislators for passing the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act on March 25, 2019.


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