Appellate court lifts ban on assisted suicide, Supreme Court appeal expected

An appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling blocking New Jersey’s new physician-assisted suicide law – meaning the measure can go forward, allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to certain terminally ill patients.

Following the Aug. 27 decision, Bergen County Dr. Yoseff Glassman – who wants the measure invalidated – and his Bloomfield attorney are expected to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Glassman and his attorney, E. David Smith of Smith & Associates, argued the state has not adopted enough regulations for the law, and that it violated the physician’s beliefs as a Jew because even if he did not participate in end-of-life treatments, he would still be forced to take part by handing over medical records to a doctor who would actually issue the prescription.

Mercer County Judge Paul Innes had sided with Glassman.

The “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in April and took effect on Aug. 1. It allows terminally ill patients with no more than six months to live to acquire life-ending medication. A patient has to wait 15 days from the date of requesting medication and when the doctor can write a prescription. Patients have to demonstrate that they are mentally sound and not being coerced into making the decision.

The Office of Attorney General Gurbir Grewal argued last week that Innes’ order has thrown the lives of at least one terminally ill patient and that family in flux because doctors could now face civil and criminal liability if they do not follow the court’s order. Katie Kim of Fort Lee has been suffering since 2011 from a terminal disease called Multiple System Atrophy, according to a report from NJ Advance Media.

Grewal’s office said Innes, in his Aug. 14 decision, overstepped his authority as a superior court judge.

Appellate Court Judges Carmen Messao and Arnold Natili Jr. agreed, writing in a seven-page decision that the court “abused its discretion” in issuing the freeze on the law.

Daniel J. Munoz
Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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