Last year, a similar bill passed through the same committee, but died in the Assembly and the state Senate. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opposed the bill, and has said that he opposes the current version.
The bill would allow patients with less than six months to live and terminal diagnoses to buy prescription drugs to speed up their deaths. As a safeguard, two witnesses must testify to the mental competence of the ill person. At least one of those people cannot be a relative and cannot benefit from the person's death.
Dr. Jacqueline Harvey, president of the International Center for Truth in Science, gave the committee written testimony indicating how right-to-die laws in Oregon and Washington have led to “pressure on patients to end their lives for the benefit of others.” She also cited studies that show caregivers — not patients themselves — report “a higher quality of death” for patients who are allowed patient-assisted suicide.
Harvey also pointed to how treating depression has helped some patients prefer to live out their lives, and how many diagnoses that a patient has only six or less months to live are inaccurate.
The New Jersey Catholic Conference helped kill the bill last year, and organizations like the Medical Society of New Jersey and the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund are leading the fight against it this year.
The Denver-based Compassion and Choices is advocating for the law. They claim “polls [show] that 62 percent of New Jersey residents support death with dignity.”
Five states have right-to-die laws — Washington, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont. Earlier this year, New Hampshire lawmakers voted down a law allowing assisted suicide.