Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Friday that will allow terminally ill patients to obtain medication to end their own lives, making New Jersey the eighth state to permit physician assisted suicide.
“Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face.”
The new law, which cleared each chamber of the New Jersey state legislature by a single vote on March 25 and takes effect Aug. 1, will enable patients who have less than six months to live the option to end their lives on their own terms.
Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia (PAS-E) has been a source of discussion for millennia, as evidenced by its explicit mention in the Hippocratic Oath.
Some time around the fifth to third century B.C., Hippocrates included euthanasia among the list of things in which physicians must never participate.
In the aftermath of the horrors of the 20th century, where thousands of people were slaughtered in World War II, there was an even stronger swing of the pendulum against any form of PAS-E.
The latter half of the 20th century has seen a resurgence of the debate, with a number of countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Luxemburg, having legalized euthanasia, with a push to normalize PAS-E worldwide.
The New Jersey law requires a psychiatrist or psychologist to verify that the patient is of sound enough mind to know what they are agreeing to do before the procedure can be carried out.
Two separate doctors will also have to confirm that the patient has less than six months to live, and will have to discuss other options with the patient.
Ultimately, patients who choose to end their own lives will have to administer the drugs on their own after getting a prescription.
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