NJ Governor Applauded for Signing Historic Aid-in-Dying Bill into Law by Advocates

State Becomes 5th Jurisdiction in 5 Years to Allow Peaceful End-of-Life Care Option
April 12, 2019

New Jerseyans with terminal or life-shortening diseases and family members whose loved ones needlessly died in agony applauded Governor Phil Murphy as they watched him this afternoon sign the historic Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S1072/A1504) into law. Nearly seven years after the bill’s original introduction, the state Assembly approved the legislation by a 41 to 33 vote and Senate by a 21 to 16 vote on March 25. 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. 

The law will 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 and die peacefully in their sleep. According to the law language, it will take effect on the first day of the 4th month after enactment, as early as Aug. 1.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signs the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Governor.

“Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do,” said Governor Murphy. “By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face. I commend Assemblyman Burzichelli for steering us down this long, difficult road, and thank the legislature for its courage in tackling this challenging issue.”

“Words cannot express my gratitude to Governor Murphy and the legislation’s author, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, for giving me this option to die peacefully, if I decide I need it,” said law 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). “Just having this option is a godsend that will enable me to live the rest of my life, however long it is, as fully as possible knowing I won’t have to suffer needlessly at the end.”

New Jersey is now the 9th jurisdiction to allow medical aid in dying in 25 years and 5th to do it in the last five years (Oregon in 1994, Washington in 2008, Montana in 2009, Vermont in 2013, California in 2015, Colorado in 2016, Washington, D.C. in 2017 Hawai‘i in 2018, and New Jersey in 2019).

“I grew up in the Garden state, so I can’t thank Gov. Murphy, the law’s sponsors and legislative leaders enough for delivering this desperately needed option to terminally ill New Jerseyans,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, who grew up in Oradell. “We pledge to help the Murphy administration implement this law as smoothly and as quickly as possible — based on our years of experience doing it in eight other jurisdictions — to ensure New Jerseyans can use this peaceful dying option, if they need it.’”

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.

“It is impossible for my terminally ill sister Melissa and I to express our profound sense of relief that this legislation is now law,” said law 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). “As nurses, we know the limits of modern medicine to relieve suffering and we are so grateful we now have the option to peacefully end our end-of-life suffering, if we need it.”

“This legislative victory is a tribute to both our tireless legislative champions — led by Assemblyman Burzichelli — and our volunteer advocates like Susan Boyce and the Wilcox sisters,” said Corinne Carey, New Jersey Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “Without their unflagging support, we could not have won this hard-won, seven-year campaign to end needless end-of-life suffering in New Jersey.”

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