Why this doctor is fighting NJ’s ‘Aid in Dying’ assisted suicide law
Last week, a Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order to temporarily block the state’s Aid in Dying law from taking effect.
After that, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office appealed the order to the court's Appellate Division. The Appellate Division will let the state submit briefs on the matter, but the trial court’s order was not dissolved, so the Attorney General’s Office is now appealing to the Supreme Court, seeking an immediate dissolution of the restraining order.
In other words, New Jersey's Aid In Dyling law, more casually known as the "assisted suicide law," is in limbo.
On Monday, a news conference was held at the Statehouse with the attorney representing Yosef Glassman, the doctor who filed the suit to block the law, and Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Bergen.
According to attorney E. David Smith, the law, which allows doctors to help terminally ill patients to end their own lives, should never take effect.
“Every single human being’s life is worth living until the last breath," Smith said. "That is something that is important for all of us to remember.”
He said the law creates a "separate class" of people -- "the separate class of people is people who the state has now determined their lives are unworthy of life.”
“We cannot allow the state to create a new category of people," Smith said.
He pointed out the law does not require a physician to go along with a patient’s request to end his or her own life, but it does specifically require that doctor to pass on the patient’s medical files to another doctor who would.
"Dr. Glassman is unwilling to do that," Smith said.
He said the reason is “as a God-fearing person he is prohibited from assisting in the life termination, ending life of any human being.”
Smith said a GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money to pay for legal efforts to block the law.
“Suicide by any other name is still suicide, and murder by any other name is still murder," Smith said. "Euthanasia by any other name is still euthanasia.”
He said the new law will impact the ability of every single Doctor in New Jersey to practice medicine the way they believe it should be practiced and uphold the Hippocratic Oath.
“Suicide and murder are never compassionate, and it’s never a choice and it’s never an option.”
The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act took effect Thursday, Aug. 1. Under the law, adults who reside in New Jersey and have a prognosis of six months or less to live are able to ask their doctors for a prescription for drugs they can take to end their lives.
“There’s some caveats to that,” clinical psychologist Elissa Kozlov, a faculty member at Rutgers University’s School of Public Health, told New Jersey 101.5 earlier this year. “They have to be medically able to administer the medicine themselves. They have to have two witnesses attest that they’re capable and that their decision to die is voluntary. And at least one of the witnesses must be disinterested. So that means they have to be perceived of not having any benefit from the individual’s death.
The "disinterested" witness cannot be a relative of the patient; cannot be entitled to any portion of the patient’s estate; and cannot be an owner, operator or employee of a health care facility, other than a long-term care facility, where the patient is receiving medical treatment or is a resident.
A second, consulting physician must verify that a patient is eligible. A patient must make two oral requests for the prescription at least 15 days apart, as well as one written request, and the doctor must refer the patient to experts in pain, palliative and hospice care and, in some instances, a mental health professional.
At Monday's press conference, Auth said it would be a mistake to let people choose to end their own lives.
“Once this process starts, it can grow and grow and grow," Auth said. The limits, the restrictions become lax and lax and lax.”
He said “there’s no telling where it will stop."
Smith said “the message of humanity across all religions and all beliefs is that human life is precious, human life is something that we do everything possible to preserve for even one more breath.”
He also stressed no one really knows how long someone with a terminal illness is going to live.
“We must emphasize to every person in the state of New Jersey that they can never give up hope, never give up hope till the last breath," he said. There is always, always something that can be done.”
Smith suggested the Aid in Dying law will desensitize people and open the door to possible abuse -- recalling 1930s Germany, when many with mental issues, disabilities or frailties were killed.
In response to the news conference, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D- Gloucester, the prime sponsor of the Aid in Dying law, said some of the comments made are offensive.
“Those kinds of extreme statements are frankly not really tied to the reality of what this bill does and how it works," he said.
He said the issue has been thoroughly vetted over nearly the past seven years, and “the statute as signed into law is sound and is protective for those (doctors) who choose not to participate.”
He said what is most concerning is “there are New Jersey people that are having their pain, suffering and agony extended because of this technical argument.”
“Extending the pain and suffering is really unjust," Burzichelli said. Denying them access to the law as signed is really hurtful and cruel.”
Burzichelli said he hopes the court reaches a resolution very, very quickly.
The State Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.
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