N.J. advances measure for terminally ill patients to get life-ending prescription

(Kasia Bialasiewicz/ Bigstock)

(Kasia Bialasiewicz/ Bigstock)

An Assembly committee has advanced legislation that would make New Jersey the sixth state to allow terminally ill patients to obtain doctor-prescribed medication to end their life.

The measure was approved by a vote of 9-to-2.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, the only Republican to vote for it, said several of her friends and relatives died after suffering from cancer.

“There’s got to be a better way than watching the people who I loved and cared about so much and seeing how awfully they suffered in their final days,” said Schepisi, R-Bergen.

Those with a terminal illness should be allowed to make their own end of life decisions, said Assemblyman Tim Eustace.

“Twenty-five years ago, our son suffered a long and lingering death and begged to allow his doctors to stop the treatments and he wanted to end his life,” said Eustace, D- Bergen. “It’s terrible to have to watch somebody suffer at the end of their life. It’s a blessing if you don’t have to do that.”

Assemblyman John DiMaio voted against the bill. His mother-in-law suffered from cancer and was in bad shape in the hospital before going to rehab and spending time with him and his wife at their home this summer before she died.

“In that period of time, she could have said, ‘Ah, I’m gone.’ But there were many days when she was at the pool, in the pool, living life,” said DiMaio, R-Warren. “I would like to think that every day of life she had in the sun was very important.”

Some physician and religious groups oppose the legislation, saying doctors should not be asked to facilitate death.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.