Death with Dignity Bill Would Require Several Requests

By Michael Hill

Lawmakers who support New Jersey’s version of the Death with Dignity law don’t consider a terminally ill patient with little time left to live and taking his or her own life suicide or assisted suicide.

“This is the opposite of suicide. Suicide is an irrational act usually done by someone that’s at unsoundmind. This particular bill provides for just the opposite. That the person has to be at soundmind if there is any question that they’re not at soundmind, that the doctor would be required to have psychiatric input. So that the regulations in this bill really make it the opposite of suicide. This is a conscience reflective decision by someone in the last days of their life,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan.

“Allowing doctors to intentionally take the life of their patient by prescribing lethal drugs. And the aim of this bill is to end a person’s life, so clearly it is suicide, ,” said NJ Right to Life Executive Director Marie Tasy.

Oregon is one of three states with a death with dignity law. None of the laws consider a person taking his or her own life a suicide or assisted suicide and have no impact on life insurance policies. That means insurers still must pay beneficiaries. All of that so long as the law is followed.

“The process involves two requests. One’s an oral request. There’s two oral requests separated by 15 days, and a written request that has to be witnessed. So that’s the process and if those are followed, a prescription can be filled. But that’s actually where the act stops. It doesn’t talk at all about circumstance. The timing, where the patient takes the medication, who’s present, and those kinds of things,” said Oregon healht Authority State Health Officer Dr. Katrina Hedberg, MPH.

Under the Death with Dignity Laws, the cause of death on death certificates lists the person’s terminal illness.

Oregon has had 1,100 prescriptions written, 800 lives taken, 80 percent of them had cancer and nearly all were in hospice care. Their average age was 70 and they were highly educated.

Since Oregon’s law went in to effect, it’s had 20 incidents where all the paperwork was not in order. The state is investigating but so far has not disciplined any of the doctors.

The state Senate has yet to act on the law and the governor has said he opposes it and would veto it and so far the New Jersey legislature has yet to override any of Gov. Chris Christie’s vetoes.