N.J. Judge Halts Assisted Suicide Law

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy signing the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act on April 12, 2019 at the New Jersey Statehouse. (New Jersey Office of the Governor via AP)

A New Jersey judge has temporarily halted the state’s newly enacted law permitting physician-assisted suicide, pending the future of a legal challenge by an Orthodox Jewish doctor.

Dr. Yosef Glassman, a geriatrician from Bergen County, initiated the suit, which has been filed by attorneys at Smith and Associates law firm.

“Dr. Glassman has very strong feelings on the subject, and as a religious man he feels this violates human rights as well as thousands of years of common understanding of right and wrong,” Richard W. Grohmann, senior counsel at the firm, told Hamodia.

The “Aid in Dying Act” passed the legislature and was signed into law this past April, but did not go into effect until the beginning of August. Because patients requesting life-ending drugs must wait two weeks before receiving them, the request for an emergency injunction was not relevant until last week.

Upon becoming law, the state directed six separate agencies to issue regulations that would govern procedures relating to doctors prescribing lethal substances to qualifying patients, yet so far none have done so.

While the suit makes a wide range of arguments against the law, State Superior Court Judge Paul Innes, who halted its implementation, cited a total lack of regulation over the process as his reason for granting the injunction. As the matter now stands, the injunction would be in place until a hearing is held for Dr. Glassman’s case, scheduled October 23.

Governor Phil Murphy pledged to “vigorously fight” the injunction and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is in the process of filing for “emergency relief,” which, if granted, would allow the law to go back into effect while the suit is pending.

Dr. Yosef Glassman/ (OU.org)

Mr. Grohmann said it seemed unlikely that regulations could be put in place before the court date, as they would need to be drafted and submitted for a 60-day period of public comment before going into effect.

Doctors are not mandated to directly prescribe life-ending medicines, but they are required to refer patients to another physician if they refuse to aid in a patient’s death. In the filing, Dr. Glassman said that, as a physician and an Orthodox Jew, he believes that “the right to human life is sacred and should not be taken under any circumstances.” He said that any level of participation, even the transfer of a file, would violate his core beliefs and make him an unwilling party to a patient’s death.

Dr. Glassman’s suit makes a number of other arguments, including that mandating doctors to become a party to their patient’s willing death undoes the inherent contract to heal between patient and doctor, thereby violating the tenth amendment to the Constitution.

For many years, New Jersey groups and legislators advocating to permit doctors to aid patients with terminal diagnoses in ending their lives were limited by the fact that former Governor Chris Christie had vowed to veto any such measure. The measure has been strongly opposed by the Agudath Israel of America, the Catholic Conference, organizations for people with disabilities, and a wide range of other groups.

This year, support from the Murphy administration paved the way for the measure to become law, with advocates arguing that it gives terminally ill patients “autonomy.” New Jersey was the seventh state to permit the practice and since then Maine has also moved to legalize it as well.

Patients who request a physician’s assistance in ending their lives must undergo a psychological evaluation, have their diagnosis confirmed by a second doctor, and make their request twice within a period of 15 days. Anyone found guilty of coercing someone to take the lethal medications could face a $15,000 fine or prison time.

Yet the suit argues that such safeguards are insufficient and at present allow for many scenarios of abuse and flawed applications.

“We would like to see it stopped permanently, as we see the law as inherently flawed,” said Mr. Grohmann.


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