On September 27, New Jersey Assemblyman, John J. Burzichelli, introduced what he refers to as the “New Jersey Death with Dignity Act,” a bill that is a “Oregon Style” assisted suicide bill.
This bill is designed to be debated and voted on by the legislature and, if passed, to bypass the governor and go before the voters as a ballot question in the next election.
Burzichelli, a Democrat, stated about Assembly Bill A3328 that: “It’s not a Dr. Kevorkian bill where someone who’s 45 years of age who’s depressed and lost their job decides they don’t want to live and wants to call someone to assist them in suicide. This bill is very narrow.”
During the debates concerning assisted suicide, New Jersey legislators will learn that the Oregon assisted suicide act has serious flaws and that allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses to their patients will occur with abuses.
A recent article that was written by disability rights leader Marilyn Golden and published in the New York Times points out that there are flaws in Assisted Suicide laws.
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While Oregon and Washington State have legalized assisted suicide, about half of U.S. states have defeated or banned it, often with an opposition coalition spanning left to right.
Mixing assisted suicide and profit-driven managed health care is a dangerous mistake. A lethal prescription costs about $300, often much cheaper than treatment regimens. Denying or delaying treatment to save money already poses a significant danger, far greater if assisted suicide is legal. For example, two Oregonians, Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, were informed that the Oregon Health Plan won’t pay for their chemotherapy, but will pay for assisted suicide.
“Disabled patients, the elderly and those with depression or mental illness are especially vulnerable.” Doctor-prescribed suicide especially affects people with depression or mental illness. Michael Freeland had a 40-year history of acute depression but received lethal drugs in Oregon.
Oregon’s “safeguards” offer no protection. If a doctor refuses, patients find another doctor.
“Death within six months” is often misdiagnosed, endangering persons not terminally ill, including disabled people with many meaningful years of life ahead. The law offers no protection when family pressures, financial or emotional, distort patient choice.
The Oregon model lacks meaningful oversight, has no investigation of abuse, and its data is flawed. Americans are wise to reject assisted-suicide laws—they’re bad medicine.
The experience with legal assisted suicide in Oregon also shows that significant abuse will occur.
Oregon resident Kathryn Judson was afraid to leave her husband alone with doctors and nurses after she overheard their doctor attempting to talk her husband into “asking for” assisted suicide. Giving physicians the power to prescribe death for their patients can and will be abused.
Legalizing assisted suicide is also a recipe for elder abuse. Elder law attorney Margaret Dore has published landmark research on elder abuse and assisted suicide, proving that assisted suicide laws do not protect elders who are living with elder abuse and, when analyzed, it becomes clear that these laws are doctor protection acts.
Then there is the experience of Jeanette Hall, who wanted to die by assisted suicide, but her physician convinced her to first receive treatment for her cancer. She is now thankful that she didn’t die by assisted suicide.
New Jersey legislators need to reject Assembly Bill A3328, and the citizens in New Jersey need to become organized to defeat this potential ballot measure.
Reprinted from Alex Schadenberg.