EDITORIAL: Give me liberty to give me death
New Jersey Assembly passed Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Act
The New Jersey General Assembly just passed a bill that gives terminally ill patients the right to request a prescription for drugs to end their lives. In a 41-28 vote with 5 absentees, the Assembly put the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into play, sparking a mixture of emotions. However, at the end of the day, it is only the emotions of the patients themselves that should be taken into consideration.
The bill, numbered A2451, gained its momentum in New Jersey when news of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard came to light and brought into discussion. Maynard, a patient of terminal brain cancer, was forced to travel from California (which had not passed the bill at the time) to Oregon just for the ability to end her life. State officials finally decided that it was not in their power to deny those who were capable of determining what medical steps to take from having a say in whether they want to prolong their suffering or not.
Many people who oppose the bill speak to the “moral” concerns that it’s passing brings up. A common and understandable complaint is that presenting this option to patients may actually pressure them to end their lives on account of patients feeling as though they are burdens to their families. These opponents and others, who coin this bill as giving legal standing to “assisted suicide,” fail to realize the lengthy and detailed process that contributes to this final decision.
A2451 was created for patients who meet a long list of requirements to be considered terminally ill. These patients, who are at least 18 years of age and New Jersey residents, must first have the thinking and mental capacity to make a decision on their own. Secondly, these patients must have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with consequences of death six-months prior of diagnosis. After meeting these requirements, the ill patients must put in a formal request for the prescription. The patients are, of course, allowed to withdraw this request at any time. However, before the prescriptions are even written, medical examiners test the patients for psychological problems and ensure that the patients were not forced or provoked to take this action. The doctors must also exhaust any other options that the patients might have for relieving pain. And as a last precaution, the patients who request the prescription must be capable of ingesting the medication on their own, otherwise resulting in criminal charges against the doctor. This detailed and careful process was put into place to guarantee that those who choose this path are sure of their decisions.
The New Jersey Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act has only otherwise been passed in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California, sending New Jersey on its way to becoming the fifth state to adopt this “death with dignity” bill, as it is often called. This, despite what critics say, is a progressive move for the state and for the patients who have no other option but to search for a way out.
Death is frightening, but there are worse things in life. Those who are suffering from terminal illnesses and the pain they bring on understand this, and New Jersey is beginning to understand this. Even if people are opposed to presenting the option of death to patients, it is important that if someone wants to take these actions themselves, they should not be denied this choice. A person should be in charge of his or her own life and the decisions that affect them, even if that decision might mean ending their lives.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.