A New Jersey State Senate Committee heard testimony on Monday from Agudath Israel, among several other public advocacy groups, regarding a bill to legalize doctor-assisted suicide in that state.
“Both Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rav Malkiel Kotler said that this is a core issue and that it is tantamount to legalizing murder,” Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey office, told Hamodia. “They feel that we have to oppose it publicly as Klal, not only as a matter of standing up against immorality in society, but because it could come to harm the frum community and Yiddishe neshamos in a real way.”
The bill passed the State Assembly by one vote a little over two weeks ago. Its next hurdle is for the committee to bring it to the Senate floor.
“It’s iffy whether the bill will pass the committee,” said Senator Robert Singer (R), whose district includes Lakewood, in an interview with Hamodia. “They know that I am a ‘no’ vote. The Republicans all oppose it and I’m not sure if there are enough Democrats to carry it through.”
In a bill that has largely become a partisan struggle, prospects in the Democrat-dominated upper chamber are not certain. Pundits, however, seem confident that even in the event that the bill does pass the Senate, it is unlikely that Gov. Chris Christie will sign the controversial legislation, a hot-button issue for conservatives, especially in light of his rumored presidential ambitions.
The committee has yet to announce its next session, which might include a vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate.
“The issue of how a patient who is most likely suffering from depression is capable of making a decision to die brought many senators to understand the dangers of the bill,” said Rabbi Schnall, who delivered the Agudah’s presentation. “I think that potential pressure from families of terminally ill relatives also worries them.”
Other key points of the Agudah’s testimony were the potential corruption of the doctor’s role as a healer and the “dangerous trend away from the recognition of life’s inherent sanctity.”
“One of the most important points to me is that the medical society testified against this bill,” said Sen. Singer. “If the doctors of this state feel that this is not the way to handle things, I think that is pretty solid proof that this is a bad bill.”