On Monday, March 25, 2019, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide. If signed, this will make New Jersey the seventh state to adopt such a law.
The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A1504) is designed to permit a “qualified terminally ill patient to self-administer medication to end life in [a] humane and dignified manner.”
It would apply to legal adults who are diagnosed with six months or less to live and require confirmation from a consulting physician and sign-off from a psychiatrist or psychologist.
The bill now just awaits the signature of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
As Newsweek reports, Gov. Murphy said in a statement that allowing doctors to assist in ending the life of terminally ill patients is “the right thing to do” and that he “look[s] forward to signing this legislation into law.”
Though it appears highly likely that he will sign the bill, Gov. Murphy has not yet announced when.
The question of physician-assisted suicide brings up a number of questions, the foremost being whether doctors should be in the business of ending human life. Does the ancient axiom primum non nocere — “first, do no harm” — no longer have a place in western medicine? Is not the core responsibility of a physician the preservation of their patient’s life?
Furthermore, if we do grant that a doctor should be involved in ending the life of a patient, where is the line? Are they merely administrators of death, or are they also responsible for weighing the value of life? Less than two years ago, doctors in the U.K. made such a judgment with the life of Charlie Gard, a terminally ill infant whose life was ended against his parent’s wishes.
According to CNN, nineteen other states are currently considering bills that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Our country has a big decision ahead of it and we should continue to fight for life.