NJ Voters Favor Doctor-Assisted Suicide - For Now

Tuesday, 04 Dec 2012 12:45 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New Jersey lawmakers could consider a bill next month that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide and a new poll indicates that 46 percent of voters in the state would likely support it.
 
Citing a Farleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll, the Newark Star-Ledger, reported Tuesday that the Democratic-sponsored bill called the "Death with Dignity" Act is not well-known yet among voters. For example, 55 percent of the 433 voters surveyed last week said they had never heard of it.
 
But when asked if they would support the idea of doctor-assisted deaths for people who are terminally ill, 46 percent said they would while 38 percent said they would not.
 
Poll analyst Dan Cassino said the lack of awareness about the issue indicates there’s still plenty of time for people to change their minds about the bill, which would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients with six months or less to live. The doctors, however, would not administer the drugs. That would be done by patients themselves at least 15 days after submitting verbally and in writing what would essentially be a request to die.
 
Cassino noted that voters who regularly go to church were more likely to oppose the bill, while people who rarely or never go to church were more likely to favor it.
 
Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, the chief sponsor of the measure, hopes to begin hearings on it in January. Opponents, however, say it has little chance of passage.
 
“As people become familiar with what the [the bill] is really suggesting, they will come down on the side of compassionate care for individuals and not assisting people to commit suicide,” Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, told the newspaper.
 
The bill was originally proposed as a voter referendum, but Brannigan says voters never would have supported it as a ballot measure.
 
Massachusetts voters rejected a similar assisted suicide initiative last month, according to the Star-Ledger, which also reported that only Montana, Oregon and Washington state allow doctor-assisted suicides.

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