Annual Report Chronicles Impact of New Jersey’s Death with Dignity Law
TRENTON – In the year since the state’s Medical Aid in Dying law took effect, 12 terminally ill New Jersey residents were aided by the measure to end their lives with dignity and on their own terms, according to the first annual report issued today by the New Jersey Department of Health.
Official said New Jersey is one of nine states, plus Washington, D.C., in which medical aid in dying has been authorized.
Governor Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in April 2019, and it took effect August 1, 2019.
The permits an attending physician to write a prescription for medication that would enable a qualified terminally ill adult patient to end his or her life.
It reinforces the state's commitment to an individual's right to make their own choices on health care treatment, including seeking a peaceful and humane death.
Under the law, the Department of Health is required to provide an annual statistical report to the public. The report was written by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner.
“This report provides public health information to help inform residents of their rights under the state’s law,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
“New Jersey’s law empowers terminally-ill residents to make their own end-of-life choices humanely and with respect and dignity.”
According to the report, between August 1 and December 31, 2019, 12 medical aid in dying cases – including six men and six women between the ages of 50 and 93 – were filed with the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner.
“Terminally ill” is defined as “the terminal stage of an irreversibly fatal illness, disease, or condition with a prognosis, based upon reasonable medical certainty, of a life expectancy of six months or less.”
A request for medication must be made twice verbally and once in writing.
According to a report by Compassion & Choices, a grassroots advocacy group, 90% of people who use medical aid in dying are able to die at home.
Ten of the deceased died at home, one in a nursing home and one in another home.
The law enables terminally ill adult patients with a life expectancy of six months or less to obtain and self-administer medication to end their lives.
The patient’s physician must attest that the patient is capable and acting voluntarily.
The law also includes additional procedures and safeguards that patients, physicians, and other health care professionals must follow before the patient may legally obtain and self-administer the medication.
Cancer was the leading underlying illness with seven cases, followed by three cases of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and one case each of heart disease and gastrointestinal disorder.