The Right To Die Legislation

New Jersey recently enacted the right to die or assisted suicide legislation as the eighth jurisdiction in the U.S. to allow a fatally ill individual to make a decision to end their life. New Jersey joins Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and California.

The legislation is deemed to be a commitment to individual dignity, informed consent and the right of the individual to make their own health care decisions.  New Jersey affirms the right of a qualified terminally ill patient to obtain medication that the patient may choose to self-administer in order to bring about a humane and dignified death. 

The New Jersey Act – called “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” will permit a New Jersey resident individual 18 years of age or older, who has the capacity to make health care decisions and to communicate them to a health care provider, who is in the terminal stage of an irreversible fatal illness, disease or condition with a prognoses based upon reasonable medical certainty of a life expectancy of six months or less as confirmed in writing by a consulting physician to be deemed to  have made an informed decision to request  and obtain a prescription for medication to end their life.  The medication is to be self-administered.

The request by the terminally ill individual must be done in a specific manner:  The individual must make two oral requests and one written request for the medication to their attending physician.  At least 15 days shall lapse between the initial oral request and the second oral request.  Upon the second request, the attending physician shall offer the patient an opportunity to rescind the request.  At least fifteen days must elapse between the initial oral request and the writing of a prescription. 

A health care agent is not authorized to request the prescription or to rescind the initial request. 

The medication must be administered by the patient. 

This decision is not to be made lightly.  Family members may object, religious beliefs may be considered.   Ultimately, the decision rests with the patient to end their pain and suffering.

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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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