TRENTON, N.J. – Governor Phil Murphy signed a law Friday making New Jersey the seventh state to pass a law allowing terminally ill to end their life.
Murphy, a Democrat, privately signed the law entitled "Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act". His office would not say why the signature was not public. The law will come into effect in August.
He had previously indicated that he would support the bill, but in a personal statement, Murphy – a long-time Catholic – revealed that he was struggling to find out if he should sign the draft bill. law. The catholic conference of the state testified against the measure.
"I have concluded that, although my faith may lead me to a particular decision, as a public official, I can not refuse this alternative to those who might come to a different conclusion." Murphy wrote. "I believe this choice is personal and, therefore, signing this law is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents."
Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, was not in agreement. In a written statement, Brannigan said he understood that the proponents of the bill wanted to act out of compassion, but the measure failed that test.
"The most beautiful expression of compassion is loving care that reduces or eliminates physical pain, psychological distress, depression and hopelessness – does not provide one of the deadly drugs to end one's life", he declared.
Under New Jersey law, only patients with irreversible terminal illness and whose life prognosis was six months or less could purchase a drug to end their lives.
Legislators have tried since at least 2012 to advance legislation.
The effort drew attention to New Jersey in 2014 when a 29-year-old Californian woman made headlines after moving to Portland, Oregon, so that She could use the law of that state to end her life as she wished. Brittany Maynard, 29, had end-stage brain cancer.
Her husband, Dan Diaz, praised New Jersey on Friday, claiming that locals would not be forced to leave their homes "to spare themselves the possibility of a smooth death process."
In 1997, Oregon was the first state to offer an end-of-life option. California law came into effect in 2016.
New Jersey legislation includes measures that legislators have called "guarantees".
The law requires that two doctors sign the application, that the patient be considered an adult resident of New Jersey, who can make such a decision and who voluntarily expresses his desire to die.
Patients must request the medication twice and ask them to cancel their decision. At least one of the requests must be written and signed by two witnesses.
At least one witness can not be a member of the family, be entitled to part of the estate of the person, the owner of the health facility where the patient receives treatment or a worker on the spot, nor be his doctor.
By law, patients must self-administer the medication and the treating physician must offer alternative treatment options, including palliative care.
Supporters say the law allows qualified patients to decide to end their lives in a dignified manner.
Opponents, including the Catholic State Conference, say the measure strikes the most vulnerable and the state should instead work to improve its health system.
"With the signing of this bill to legalize assisted suicide, many vulnerable New Jerseyers are now at risk of life-threatening injuries due to errors, restraints and abuse," said Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, a rights group opposed to such legislation.
This measure was adopted by the 41-33 Democrat-led Assembly, with four abstentions. He eliminated the Senate controlled by Democrats 21-16.
In addition to California and Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington State and the District of Columbia all have similar legislation. Montana does not have a law authorizing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. However, a 2009 Supreme Court decision in Montana determined that nothing in state law prevented a doctor from prescribing such a drug to a terminally ill person.