NJ could become 3rd state to legalize right to die

New Jersey may become the third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after a state lawmaker proposed a bill to grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

Known as the Death With Dignity Act, the bill would allow a “qualified patient to self-administer medication to end life in a humane and dignified matter.”  The bill was introduced this week by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), according to the Star-Ledger.

Under current New Jersey law, it is considered a crime to purposely help another person commit suicide.  But if the bill is approved, an individual with six months or less to live would need to make two verbal requests and one written request – with two witnesses for the written request – to receive a lethal dose of medication.

In addition, two doctors would need to certify the terminal diagnosis and send the patient for counseling.  The bill would need voter approval to take effect as it is now written, the Star-Ledger said.

“This is the beginning of discussing a topic ... we’ve got to get a sense of how people feel," Burzichelli told the Star-Ledger. "People are not favorable to a Dr. Kevorkian suicide bill that says someone who’s 45 and depressed and decides to kill themselves with help. That’s not what this bill is.”

Two other states in the U.S., Oregon and Washington, have already passed right-to-die laws.  Since the law was passed in Oregon in 1997, 596 people have died as a result of requesting and ingesting life-ending drugs.  In Washington, 213 people have died due to assisted suicide after the law was passed in 2009.

Montana also attempted to pass its own right-to-die law, although it has been bogged down by legal issues, according to the Star-Ledger.

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