By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor
Legislation legalizing assisted suicide for the terminally ill is going to a vote in the state Senate after it passed a Senate subcommittee Nov. 3.
The Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” (S2474) in a 5-3 vote with one abstention. Under the bill, anyone with a prognosis of six months or less to live would be allowed to request and be prescribed life-ending medication.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill Nov. 14. Its companion legislation, A2451, passed the Assembly Oct. 20, despite the nearly 50 physicians, caregivers, right-to-life and religious advocacy groups, terminally ill patients and those with disabilities who attended an Advocacy Day that morning to speak out against legalized assisted suicide.
Similarly, nearly 100 people were present Nov. 3 to make their voices heard at the Senate committee hearing, including Stephanie Packer, a 33-year-old mother of four from California whose insurance company denied her health-care coverage to treat scleroderma, a chronic tissue disease that has no cure. Packer said her insurance carrier denied her treatment six times, including once after California enacted its legalized assisted suicide legislation in 2015. However, her insurance did agree to cover the pills that would end her life, she said, with a $1.20 co-pay.
Supporters of the bill argue assisted suicide gives the terminally ill a “death with dignity.” Opponents, including the New Jersey Catholic bishops, say assisted suicide laws give insurance companies leeway to deny health care services.
Patrick Brannigan, executive director for the New Jersey Catholic Conference, has said that throughout the debate, many supporters of the bill have claimed that opposition to assisted suicide is based almost entirely on religious beliefs. Brannigan claims that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Without question, the Catholic bishops of New Jersey and leaders of other faith-based groups, spurred by their religious belief in the sanctity of human life, have voiced strong objection,” to the legislation, he has said. “But many groups, including those who don’t embrace any particular faith’s doctrine, have been just as active – or more active – in opposing the unforeseen consequences of assisted suicide.”
Anyone wishing to contact their state legislators on this issue can visit the Catholic Advocacy Network.