New Jersey will be the latest state to allow terminally ill patients to request a doctor to prescribe a lethal dosage of medication in order to end their own lives, under a measure Gov. Phil Murphy signed Friday afternoon.
Assembly Bill 1504 – effective Aug. 1 – establishes the “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.” New Jersey would join California, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Washington D.C. in allowing the practice. It passed by the minimum amount of votes needed in both houses – 21 in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly, along party lines – on March 25.
A terminally ill patient, according to the new law, is anyone who has less than six months to live as a result of their condition, and that the condition is deemed irreversible and incurable.
Proponents argue the measure is a humane option for patients undergoing excruciating pain because of their medical condition.
“Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do,” Murphy said Friday in a statement. “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.”
Two physicians are needed to verify the diagnosis of the terminal illness. If either physician is unsure about the diagnosis, the patient can be referred to a mental health professional such as a social worker or psychiatrist.
The lethal medication could not be prescribed until the professional writes a letter verifying the mental capacity of the patient.