N.J. advances measure allowing terminally ill to end life with doctors’ OK



Getting just the minimum number of needed votes, a bill allowing terminally ill patients to end their life with a doctor-prescribed medication has been approved by the New Jersey Assembly.

In advance of the Assembly vote, Sen. Steve Oroho argued against the bill, saying many patients diagnosed with a terminal illness have survived.

“I do know there’s one God,” said Oroho, R-Sussex. “We’re not him, and we shouldn’t try to play him.”

Dr. Matthew Suh, a surgeon in Mercer County, said the legislation jeopardizes physicians.

“This bill in making physicians take active participation with suicidal patients is in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath,” he said.

The legislation mirrors what’s been working in Oregon for 14 years, said Assemblyman John Burzichelli of his bill.

“Doctors, if they choose to participate, can. No health care professional, no health care facility, is required to offer this service to a patient,” said Burzichelli, D-Gloucester. “They can opt out just because they want to opt out.”

At a Thursday Assembly hearing , Sarah Steele of Voorhees said she opposes the legislation. She told lawmakers she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor 10 years ago and told she had six months to live.

“Had this bill been put in effect at that time, I would not be able to stand here before you. My diagnosis still carries the word terminal,” she said. “So should I have a recurrence, I could be in danger of not being able to receive the treatment that I need.”

Titusville resident Kate Blisard contemplated suicide after her diabetes twice put her in a life-threatening coma — and she believes the legislation would endanger the lives of people with disabilities.

“If this bill passes, the lives of many people with disabilities will end without their consent through mistakes and abuses that can’t be taken back,” she said.

Patients diagnosed with six months or less to live would have to make two separate requests for the life-ending drug, one in writing signed by two witnesses. A second doctor would have to certify the diagnosis and affirm the patient is capable of making a decision.

The measure awaits action in the Senate where a similar bill stalled two years ago.

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