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New Jersey legalizes physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients


The law will go into effect in August

Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Jersey has now legalized physician assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

Here's what we know

The bill will go into effect on August 1. It requires a psychiatrist or psychologist to verify that the patient is of sound enough mind to know what they are agreeing to do before the procedure can be carried out. Two separate doctors will also have to confirm that the patient has less than six months to live, and will have to discuss other options with the patient. Ultimately, patients who choose to end their own lives will have to administer the drugs on their own after getting a prescription.

In a statement from a Friday press release, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy (D) said "Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do. By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face. I commend Assemblyman Burzichelli for steering us down this long, difficult road, and thank the Legislature for its courage in tackling this challenging issue."

But some worry that the bill, which only passed each chamber of the New Jersey state legislature by a single vote, will have serious and negative repercussions.

"The bill has lasting ramifications and lots of loopholes," Republican Sen. Robert Singer said, according to CNN. "We are so concerned about opioids, and not trusting doctors with opioids. But now we are willing to trust them with this."

California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state, and Washington D.C. already allow physician assisted suicide.

Murphy acknowledged that his support for this bill runs contrary to his faith

Murphy also noted in a longer statement from Friday that this law would allow something directly forbidden by the faith he espouses.

As a lifelong, practicing Catholic, I acknowledge that I have personally grappled with my position on this issue. My faith has informed and enhanced many of my most deeply held progressive values. Indeed, it has influenced my perspectives on issues involving social justice, social welfare, and even those topics traditionally regarded as strictly economic, such as the minimum wage. On this issue, I am torn between certain principles of my faith and my compassion for those who suffer unnecessary, and often intolerable, pain at the end of their lives.

The Catholic Church considers it a mortal sin to participate in assisted suicide, either as a patient or as a medical professional. According to the church's Second Vatican Council, "whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction....poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator."

Murphy justified this disparity between the black and white guidelines of the church he professes and the law he signed by saying "[a]fter careful consideration, internal reflection, and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion."

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