A New Jersey lawmaker this week proposed a bill to grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients, saying he wants them to have the option to decide when and how they will die.
Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli quietly proposed the New Jersey “Death with Dignity Act“ earlier this week, reports the Star-Ledger
, saying he expects there to be a long debate over the bill.
“People are not favorable to a Dr. Kevorkian suicide bill that says someone who’s 45 and depressed and decides to kill themselves with help,” said Burzichelli. “That’s not what this bill is.“
The law would not be enacted without voter approval, and Burzichelli said he’s not sure if the final version will call for a public referendum. Patients, not doctors, would give themselves the fatal dose of drugs.
The bill says patients who want to die will have to first request a prescription verbally. And then, after a 15-day waiting period, would need to follow up with another verbal request and then one in writing that’s signed by two witnesses. The legislation would cover people whose life expectancy is at six months or less.
After the requests are made, the doctor has to offer the patient a chance to change his or her mind, and recommend the patient’s next of kin be notified. The bill requires a second opinion be made about the patient’s diagnosis, and the second doctor would have to affirm the patient is capable of making the decision and is making it voluntarily.
Patients with impaired judgment will not be eligible, and would have to be referred for counseling, and hospitals would retain the right to forbid their doctors from writing the fatal dose prescription.
The bill is modeled after laws in Oregon and Washington, the only states with such legislation.
Montana also allows it, based on a court decision. A similar law is on the November ballot in Massachusetts, and other “dignity” bills have been rejected in California, Maine, and Michigan since the 1990s.
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