Lawmakers pass bill allowing assisted-suicide for terminal patients

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TRENTON -

New Jersey legislators in the state Senate and Assembly have passed a bill allowing terminally ill patients the chance to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

Under the “Right to Aid in Dying” legislation, patients can only opt-in if they have six months or less to live. It would require a person to go through a 15-day waiting period before a doctor could prescribe any life-ending medication. Two witnesses would also need to sign off on the decision to make sure that the patient is of sound mind.

New Jersey resident Susan Boyce says that she is a strong supporter of the bill. Boyce says that she sees it as a matter of giving someone a choice of how they would like to spend their last days. Boyce suffers from a lung disease known as “Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency,” which requires her to always have an oxygen tank. She says that she knows that others with the illness have suffered greatly in their final hours.

Boyce, a mother of five, says that if and when the time comes for her, she would like to end her life peacefully. She says that she doesn’t necessarily want someone to take their own life, but “Limit the amount of time they’re suffering at the very, very end where they already know the outcome is that they’re going to die.”

Opponents of the bill say that they are concerned that patients who are very sick might be coerced by family members into ending their lives. Others have objected for religious reasons, as well as the fear of misdiagnosis.

"How many people was determined by doctors that they are going to die and they didn't die? They survived for years," says Solomon Diamant.

The bill now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for approval. The governor released a statement saying, "Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do. I look forward to signing this legislation into law."

If the bill is approved, New Jersey would join California, Montana and Oregon with similar aid for terminally ill patients.

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