We have big news to report. New Jersey became the eighth state to legalize medical aid in dying on April 12, 2019, when Governor Phil Murphy signed the Medical Aid In Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The new law goes into effect on August 1. New Jersey now joins California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, and Washington DC as U.S. jurisdictions with aid in dying.
As Governor Murphy wrote when he signed the bill, “Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do. 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. I commend Assemblyman Burzichelli for steering us down this long, difficult road, and thank the Legislature for its courage in tackling this challenging issue.”
Here’s the story in Insider NJ, with more fascinating quotes from Governor Murphy, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, Dan Diaz and Kim Callinan of Compassion & Choices, and advocates Laurie Wilcox, Susan Boyce, and Jessica Guenzel. Ms. Guenzel’s quote is especially compelling: “I watched my mother die a horrible, drawn-out death. She lost all of her dignity, all of her happiness. Everything hurt and we knew she was dying and all we could do was sit there and wait while she begged for relief. She didn’t have to die that way.”/b>
This is a really important victory. New Jersey is a large, populous and highly diverse state. It’s our first big eastern state. Victory in New Jersey shows the growing power of our movement, as public opinion continues to shift in our favor. And it’s no wonder. Aid in dying is really a simple, obvious idea: Suffering at the end is often extreme, even with the best palliative care, and it’s cruel and barbaric to deny terminally ill people the option to have a peaceful death, at a time of their choosing, if and when their suffering has become unbearable to them.