Right to die bill will be before Assembly panel

TRENTON – The controversial subject of a terminally ill person choosing to end their life will be before an Assembly committee Thursday.

The Health and Senior Services Committee will deal with A3328, which is designated as the “New Jersey Death with Dignity Act.” The companion bill is S2259.

It would allow a terminally ill adult facing death within six months to obtain medication that they could self-administer to end their life in what the bills terms “a humane and dignified manner.”

Under the bill, a person would have to have the capacity to make their own health care decisions, and there would have to be a determination by that person’s physician that they are suffering from a terminal illness.

In addition, the legislation would not take effect unless it was approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

One of the Assembly version’s prime sponsors, John Burzichelli, D-3, Paulsboro, said “My personal feeling is this is a topic that warrants discussion.”

This legislation is modeled on similar laws in Washington and Oregon, Burzichelli said.

“As a citizen,’’ he said, “I’d like the ability to control my circumstances to the very end. This is not being forced on anyone.  It’s a choice.”

Among some of the bill’s other provisions:

*A person could not take advantage of this option merely because they are old or disabled;

*There must be at least two witnesses to the person’s request for medication, and one of those witnesses must not be a blood relative;

*If the attending physician believes the patient is suffering from a psychological disorder that impairs judgment, the patient must be referred for counseling;

*The Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety would be involved in proper documentation and oversight of the procedure. Right to die bill will be before Assembly panel