Legislation that would permit physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in New Jersey is slated for a committee hearing in the state senate this coming Thursday.
Leaders and advocates for the Orthodox community have described the measure as “dangerous” to all those who live in the state and have made advocacy to stop it a high priority.
The bill has been before the state’s legislature for more than six years without ever coming to a vote on the senate floor. Advocates had announced plans to push for its final passage before the end of 2018, but so far their efforts have not come to fruition.
Known as the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” the bill would permit doctors to prescribe lethal medications to a patient who is in the terminal stage of an irreversibly fatal illness, disease or condition with a prognosis, based upon reasonable medical certainty, of a life expectancy of six months or less.
The measure was first introduced in 2012. Since then, it has passed the Assembly several times, most recently last week.
The Senate committee on Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens has voted to release the bill multiple times in the past years, but did so without offering its recommendation.
Some have conjectured that the six-year stall has been the result of a pledge by former Governor Chris Christie to veto the bill should it have reached his desk and now that the governor’s mansion is occupied by Democrat Phil Murphy, who has signaled support for the measure, that it could be much closer to becoming law.
Agudath Israel of America has lobbied, together with other religious organizations as well as with physicians and patient-advocacy groups, to draw attention to what they believe are the potential dangers of the bill. The organization’s New Jersey director, Rabbi Avi Schnall, told Hamodia that while he remains “vigilant” on the issue, based on conversations with key Senate members he does not believe that the bill has garnered enough support in the upper house to bring it to a floor vote.
When the issue was first advanced, a letter signed by more than 30 prominent Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshivah circulated, calling on the Orthodox community to fight efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide, advocating that it be a “top priority” in voting decisions, as well as advising the community to directly contact their representatives to urge their opposition.