NJ lawmakers hear testimony on ‘right to die’ bill

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TRENTON -

New Jersey state lawmakers heard testimony Thursday for and against a bill that would allow assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow adults who received a prognosis of less than six months to live access to prescription medication that would end their lives.

Melissa Wilcox and her sister Laurie Wilcox are both nurses with serious illnesses. They say they are fighting for the right to die on their own terms.

“I can imagine my death day as my family around me and just a peaceful, peaceful death. That’s how I would like it,” Melissa Wilcox says.

RELATED: ‘Right to die’ advocates testify before New Jersey lawmakers

The bill has not made it to the state Senate floor in previous years because former Gov. Chris Christie had said that he would veto it.

“You have to be reviewed by several doctors and it’s at the end of life,” says Laurie Wilcox. “It’s not when you’re living your life. It’s in your final weeks.”

Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed his support for the bill, which means that it would likely pass.

This is what the group New Jersey Right to Life says that they fear and they are urging lawmakers to vote no on the bill.

“We’re giving them ways of calmly going into heaven, into our Lord’s hands,” says Nurse Maria Arvonio with the National Association of Catholic Nurses. “There are medications, there are ways that we help our patients through that process. Through that end of life.”

Opponents of the bill say that it is dangerous. They say that third parties could have incentives to shorten patients’ lives.

“There’s been all kinds of problems where insurance companies have denied treatment and instead have pushed patients into having the drugs because it’s cheaper,” says New Jersey Right to Life executive director Marie Tasy.

Opponents also say that the “six months to live” rule is arbitrary. They say that some people with the prognosis outlive the timeline for years.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, says he's "optimistic" the bill will be voted on in October.

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