TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey state Assembly approved a bill to legalize assisted suicide on Thursday, leaving the matter now in the hands of the Senate and Governor Chris Christie as to whether or not the proposed legislation will become law.
The “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Il Act” cleared the assembly by 41 to 31, which would make provision for doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients. It also exempts physicians from “civil or criminal liability or professional disciplinary action for any action taken in compliance with the provisions of the bill, including person(s) who are present when a qualified terminally ill patient self-administers medication prescribed pursuant to this act.”
A number of those on both side of the issue spoke passionately about the matter before the vote.
Janet Colbert, 68, has terminal liver cancer, and spoke in favor of the measure. According to the Associated Press, Colbert told those gathered that if assisted suicide were legal, it would make ending her life easier since she would not have to travel out of state. She said that euthanasia would be an option when her life is no longer what “I feel is quality.”
But Dr. Ana Gomes of Phillipsburg said that most doctors in the state oppose the proposal.
“We’re supposed to be one hand to hold and one hand to heal, not one hand to hold and one hand to kill,” she said. “So I really don’t have many counterparts that would advocate for this.”
The legislation comes just days after California native Brittany Maynard took her life in Oregon, urging others to work to pass so-called death with dignity laws across the country. Maynard, 29, had been suffering from Glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer, but had already lived past her six-month prognosis. She moved to Oregon this year because it is one of three states in the nation that have legalized euthanasia, and obtained a prescription for 100 sedative capsules, which she dissolved on Nov. 1 and drank, thus ending her life.
Following the vote on Thursday, some expressed concern over the culture of death that America is becoming.
“Today’s vote represents another instance of society turning its back on the medically vulnerable who are at risk because they are either depressed or worried about what their future holds,” said Burke Balch, J.D., director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. “Contrary to what we’re told by assisted suicide advocates, these laws do not offer a patient ‘dignity,’ but only abandonment from health care workers and family who are supposed to be caring for patients and loved ones.”
Oregon, Washington and Vermont are the only states where assisted suicide is legal.