A pro-life advocate wears a button voicing opposition to the state's assisited suicide legislation in this file photo. Joe Moore photo

A pro-life advocate wears a button voicing opposition to the state's assisited suicide legislation in this file photo. Joe Moore photo

By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

The New Jersey assisted suicide bill, which was scheduled for a vote Oct. 29, has been postponed to an undetermined later date.

Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, said that the delay is an opportunity for people to call their legislators and let them know why they oppose assisted suicide.

“Legislators listen to their constituents,” Brannigan said. “A call to their legislator is more effective than they think.”

Voicing opposition is critical, as right now there may be enough “yes” votes to pass the “Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Act” (A1504). The bill would allow terminally ill adults the option of taking drugs to end their lives prematurely – an action patently against Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of all human life.

The state Senate has an identical bill, S1072, which could move forward if the Assembly bill passes. If passed, the bill would then be moved to Gov. Phil Murphy.

The NJCC lists among its reasons for opposition of the bill the message it sends to those who suffer pain and depression.

“We have time to encourage people to speak about the issue, and to raise the problem of unintended consequences – especially for veterans and teenagers,” Brannigan emphasized. He noted that suicide prevention programs through the federal Department of Veterans Affairs and mandated for all New Jersey colleges provide counseling for those with depression. “If we provide [those programs], why would we have a law passed that says if you are in pain, you can end your life?” he said.

“The state should be supporting better education in medical and nursing schools on hospice and palliative care,” Brannigan continued. “Through [both], we can reduce pain and trauma of individuals. Hospice has improved dramatically in recent years. For individuals suffering from depression, we need to reach out and provide the healing touch of medicine and spiritual assistance.”