Hot on the heels of this news from the Netherlands comes another item from much closer to home.
From the Newark Star-Ledger:
A state lawmaker says it’s time for New Jersey to openly discuss the most difficult of topics: whether terminally ill patients should be allowed to decide how and when they die.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) on Monday quietly proposed a bill that would grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have less than six months to live. It’s called the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act.
The South Jersey lawmaker wants suffering patients to have the option of ending their days on their own terms. He expects a long debate on the bill.
“This is the beginning of discussing a topic that we’ve got to get a sense of how people feel,” he said. “People are not favorable to a Dr. Kevorkian suicide bill that says someone who’s 45 and depressed and decides to kill themselves with help. That’s not what this bill is.”
Under the bill, no law would be enacted without voter approval, but Burzichelli said he is not sure if the final version will call for a public referendum. If it becomes law, patients would self-administer the drugs.
“In my mind it’s a matter of conscience, faith and a very private decision the individual should be in a position to make if they choose to,” said Burzichelli.
Patrick Brannigan, executive director for the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said while the Church does not require “futile medical treatments or high-tech interventions for the dying” and backs palliative care to ease pain — it does not support hastening the end of life.
“The New Jersey Death with Dignity Act as written is not about dignity or choice. The legislation would enable people to pressure others to an early death or even cause early death. The Act may also encourage patients with years to live to give up hope,” Brannigan said. “The Bishops of New Jersey strongly oppose any direct, intentional or purposeful taking of a human life.”