NJ clears 1st hurdle to make assisted suicide legal; opposition calls hearing a 'charade'

New Jersey’s legislators cleared the latest hurdle in a bid to legalize assisted suicide, reports say.

NJ.com reported Thursday that the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted 6-3 in favor of the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, which would allow adult residents to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined they have six months or less to live.

An opponent of the bill, Dr. T. Brian Callister, told Fox News via email: “I thought the hearing was highly irregular. They did not allow many if not most of the people who oppose the bill who signed in hours ahead a chance to speak. As an example, there were six high influential physicians there with me in opposition to the bill, including the medical ethics director from Columbia (University), and only two were able to speak — one New Jersey physician and myself.”

He added, “It seemed very irregular — really a charade of a hearing with the outcome apparently a foregone conclusion.”

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The news outlet reported that the bill must pass both houses of the Legislature and be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

“If it does pass, my experience has been that most physicians and pharmacists, even if they were tacitly for it, want nothing to do with actually participating in assisting with suicide,” Callister told Fox News via email.

Callister said his participation at the hearing was “in hopes of educating legislators about the perverse incentives and negative unintended consequences that physician-assisted suicide carries with it.”

Assisted suicide has been referred to as “Death with Dignity” or “Medical Aid in Dying,” but Callister told Fox News he refuses to use such “candy-coated” phrases, “as I consider both labels disingenuous.”

NJ.com reported that as of now, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C., have enacted right-to-die laws; Montana’s “right-to-die” was established under a court ruling, which provides physicians a legal defense or immunity from prosecution.

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Earlier this week, the New Jersey Catholic Conference asked its parishioners to get state legislators to vote no on the bill, noting in a statement: “In the states that have passed assisted suicide bills (California, Vermont and Oregon) insurance companies have denied individuals healthcare coverage but offered them low cost drugs to end their life.”

Opponents say these laws lack safeguards to protect against abuse.