TRENTON - A proposal to allow terminally ill residents to end their lives on their own terms has been approved by a legislative committee.
The legislation would allow terminally ill patients of sound mind who have been given less than six months to live to obtain prescription drugs to end their lives.
Currently, the only option in New Jersey is to make sick or dying relatives as comfortable as possible.
"I have held many people in my arms, at their time of dying, whose pain has been agonizing, whose souls have been ripped apart by disease, illness and tragic experiences," says Mickey Macintyre, of Compassion and Choice.
Friends and relatives of patients in their final weeks and months told stories of love and loss, and say they wished there was another, easier way for their loved ones to go.
"He had been suffering with leukemia for which there was no further treatment, and he was exhausted and sick and in pain all the time," says supporter Dr. David Belden.
The goal, according to the bill's author, is to provide choice. "There's no requirement to take the prescription should you request it," says Assemblyman John Burzichelli. "An individual will make their own choices as they go, they'll take it or they won't take it."
Opponents like Steven McDonald, an NYPD detective shot on the job, was one of half a dozen disabled people who testified. They are worried the bill could give depressed patients or misguided relatives a legal window for assisted suicide.
"Their mothers, their fathers, their children think this might be a compassionate way out of life, is well intentioned," McDonald says. "But would have a bad effect on life in general."
The bill passed out of the committee and heads to the full Assembly. The amended bill would not require voter approval.