Terminally ill patients can end their own life under new law

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TRENTON -

New Jersey residents suffering from a terminal illness now have the right to end their own lives as the Right to Die bill went into effect today.

Patients with six months or less to live who are deemed mentally competent are eligible to end their pain and suffering.

In order to receive the medication under the bill, a patient must also meet a number of conditions: They must be an adult resident of New Jersey, they must be capable and been determined by the patient's attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease and the patient must have voluntarily expressed a wish to die.

Advocates say the law gives patients peace of mind and more control at the end of their life.

Deb Cooperman says that she remembers how hard her mother fought and the pain she endured as she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.

"She'd done chemotherapy, radiation, she had surgeries," Cooperman says. "People always say well there is palliative care. You can do things to ease pain. But there's nothing to be done to completely ease the pain."

Cooperman's mother was a hospice volunteer who brought comfort to others in their last days. Her death prompted Cooperman to advocate for New Jersey's Death with Dignity bill, which was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in April.

RELATED: New Jersey enacts law on assisted suicide for terminally ill 

"It's self-administered, so it really is a person saying, 'This is the end of my suffering,'" Cooperman says.

Cooperman says that she is not sure if her mother would have chosen to end her own life, but she says that she believes that the option would have given her mother some peace of mind.

The Catholic Church has spoken out against the law.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Newark Archdiocese says in a statement, "The gift of human life and dignity is sacred and must be respected and protected at every stage, from conception to natural death. Respect for human life encourages a trust and peace with God despite illness and suffering."

The law also requires patients to make a verbal request for a prescription that will end their lives. They then have to make the same request at least 15 days later.

The doctor also has to offer the patient the opportunity to withdraw the request at any time.

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