‘Death with Dignity Act’ advances in N.J.

A New Jersey Assembly committee has advanced legislation to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with drugs prescribed by doctors.

If approved by voters, the measure would apply to patients with six months or less to live.

Bridgewater resident Claudia Burzichelli, who has stage four lung cancer, was in tears as she asked lawmakers to support the bill.

“I would hope that I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way, a more compassionate ending,” she said.

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The New Jersey Catholic Conference is among the opponents of the legislation.

“Medical science is called on to eradicate the illnesses from which we suffer. It is not called on to eradicate the patients who suffer these illnesses,” said Pat Brannigan of the conference.

Opponents of the bill also say a six-month life expectancy prognosis for a seriously ill patient could be inaccurate.

Ventnor resident Sheila McLaughlin testified Thursday that if she had a terminal illness, she’d like to have choices.

“I want the option to ask my doctor for a prescription that I could take to achieve a peaceful death,” she said. “I don’t know If would ever use the option, but knowing that I could talk about all my options with my doctor would give me great peace of mind.”

While they’re pleased the issue is getting attention, supporters of the measure are uncertain whether it will go to a vote in the full Legislature this session.

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