The NJ Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a 2nd hearing December 15, 2014, on A2270/S382, the assisted suicide bill and released it with reservations. The bill can be scheduled for a vote by the full Senate at any time. Please take immediate action and please ask friends and family to take action and share as well.
Please read the article below and continue to call your Senator and urge him/her to Vote No on A2270/S382. You can also use our Legislative Action Center to take action on this legislation. Thank you.
New Jersey Senate committee advances assisted-suicide bill
After a lengthy and emotional hearing Monday, lawmakers narrowly sent New Jersey’s Death with Dignity Act to its final vote in the Legislature.
The question now is whether the legislation allowing physicians to prescribe fatal medication to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live can get the backing needed in the Senate. It barely got the support to pass the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on Monday, by a vote of 5-3, but some lawmakers who were in favor of the legislation said they would vote against it in the full Senate.
In the past week the panel has heard testimony from medical organizations, religious groups, and those who have been given months to live and those who have witnessed the slow, painful death of a loved one. Advocates of the measure said it is a matter of civil liberties and provides a comforting outlet for those in pain. Critics have called it flawed policy tantamount to state-sanctioned homicide.
But after close to six total hours of lobbying on each side the past week, Senator Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, summed up the panel’s responsibility this way: “This is really a highly personal issue, and very much a vote of conscience.”
Personal views do change, though. One of the bill’s original sponsors, Chairman Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, took his name off the legislation because, he said, “The more I thought about it, the more questions I had. I just thought it was best to say, ‘I’m not sure.’”
Still, Vitale cast a vote Monday in favor of releasing the bill to the full Senate, but without recommendation – meaning there is not overwhelming support in the majority.
It isn’t known if it has the 21 votes to clear the Senate, though Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has come out in support of the bill. In a statement, he said he believes there “needs to be an honest discussion about this option.”
An Assembly version cleared last month with 41 votes, the minimum needed for a bill to pass. And even if the bill does pass the Senate, Governor Christie has said he does not support it.
Such a measure is contentious enough, but several speakers – and one committee member – suspected the bill was getting rammed through to the Senate.
“This is a very, very, very critical piece of legislation that deserves to have its time. It rushed through the Assembly in the dark of night. It’s rushing through the Senate in the dark of night,” said Sen. Bob Singer, R-Ocean. “What’s this urgency that it can’t get its fair share and can’t (let) everyone be heard?”
On Monday, several speakers expressed worry that the law, if passed, would become an option of first resort, not the last, for some.
“What we have is palliative care for the rich and death for the poor. Is that the road we’re really going down here?” said Alan Holdsworth, a member of the group Not Dead Yet.
In 2015, the entire 80-member NJ Assembly is up for election.
All 80 seats in the Assembly are up, as they are every two years. Each legislative district is comprised of two Assembly members who you will be voting for. Please check back with us for news and information on the election.
New Jersey’s most conservative member of Congress, Scott Garrett, handily won re-election to a fifth term by defeating Democrat Tod Theise and three other candidates in the 5th Congressional District.
Garrett, of Sussex County, solidified his position in the House of Representatives and an increasingly right-leaning national GOP party by racking up another big win today, this time against Theise of Warren County.
Theise, like predecessor Democrats who failed to dent Garrett’s armor, claimed he is too extreme and out-of-touch with his mainly moderate constituency.
But voters in the district, which has long been a Republican stronghold, delivered to Garrett one of his largest margins of victory.
Green Party candidate Ed Fanning and independents Mark Quick and James Douglas Radigan also lost today.
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We plan on being active in the 2015 State Legislative election.
100% of our pro-life incumbents endorsed by NJRTL PAC won re-election. Please consider making a donation to NJRTL State PAC to support the election of more pro-life candidates to State and Local offices.
On November 18th, during the Assembly floor debate on A2270, the physician assisted bill, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) asked Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3), the bill sponsor, some very important questions related to taxpayer funding of assisted suicide. Assemblyman Webber said he noticed there was no prohibition on the use of state funds – either state medicaid funds or monies through the state health benefits plans from being used to intentionally end another individual’s life. He then asked Assemblyman Burzichelli if there was anything in the bill that would prevent state funds from being used to pay for assisted suicide. Assemblyman Burzichelli answered that he thought that the normal course of process associated with what is paid for or not paid for in the multiple programs the state had would be sufficient to sort out those details. Assemblyman Webber then asked if it was the sponsor’s intention to require public funding of physician assisted suicide. Burzichelli’s response was that he makes “no comment related to what those processes would provide based on this intent of the legislation.” You can listen to that exchange here (at minute marker 37:50 -40:07); We advise using Internet Explorer to access this page.
It is important to note that without an express prohibition in the bill to prohibit taxpayer funding of assisted suicide, it leaves the door open to the use of public funds. It’s amazing that the bill passed after this admission by the sponsor, especially among the four Republicans who voted for it, all of whom claim to be fiscal conservatives. (Asw. Maria Rodriguez-Gregg (R-8), Asm. Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), Asm. Jack Ciatterelli (R-16), and Holly Schepisi (R-39).)
We thank Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) and Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-39) for speaking about the dangers of this bill and pointing out its serious flaws.
Read related article here.
I AM not evil. According to Brittany Maynard, I am. Maynard was the 29-year-old terminally ill woman who moved from California to Oregon so she could commit suicide on Nov. 1. I am not evil, and I refuse to be an apologist for what we are talking about across these not-so-United States. The New Jersey Death With Dignity Act is mislabeled. The function of such a law is to allow people to end their lives — and that is called suicide.
Maynard, an eloquent advocate for her cause, told People magazine, “For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me.” On Thursday, 41 members of the state Assembly apparently agreed. By the slimmest of majorities, the 80-member chamber passed the so-called Death With Dignity bill.
The state Senate still must pass the bill before it could go to Governor Christie’s desk. Considering Christie’s pro-life stance, it is hard to envision him signing such a bill into law. There was not much debate in the Assembly, but what has been reported reveals some of the passion behind the legislation.
Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, told of his mother’s last days. She had wasted away to 50 pounds and would tell him she wished she could die. There is no easy answer here. Legislation that will affect every person living in New Jersey should not be the byproduct of any individual’s personal loss.
Yet we see in state legislatures and Congress just that — the proliferation of laws that bear the first name of a victim of a crime or a natural calamity. These bills become laws because legislators find that spot inside constituents that wants to end brutality or suffering and come up with legislation that generally does not solve the problems, only salves the wounds.
The sincerity of the bill’s supporters is real. But the opposition is sincere, as well. There are religious forces at play, and there are more basic moral ones, not aligned to any one given faith. Despite the procedural safeguards that should prevent someone in momentary depression from committing suicide, this is a dangerous line for a state to cross. Because if we buy into the argument that this is all about personal liberty and no one has the right to tell anyone when to end their life, then suicide without checks and balances becomes not only justifiable, but a protected right. While many New Jerseyans may be fine with the overall concept of allowing terminally ill people the choice of killing themselves, in practice it might not be so black and white.
We all want to cheat death. And sometimes people defy their diagnosis. The headlines over Maynard’s decision may be recent, but the actress Valerie Harper made news when she went public with her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. She was given three months to live — two years ago.
Terminally ill patients would have to be of sound mind when they decide to end their lives under this proposed bill. So the case of a dying parent in the final throes of a horrible death may not really be applicable. The decision to die would have had to be made and acted upon long before that stage was reached.
Some proponents of this legislation also claim that the health care industry is preventing terminally ill patients from dying because there is money to be made by forcing these patients to undergo needless medical procedures and treatments. Well, in this new America where all citizens must have health insurance, the opposite could become true — insurers could encourage patients with costly end-of-life illnesses to choose a quicker death.
If I am uncomfortable with the possibility that insurance companies could determine if I live or die — and I am — I am more frightened when legislators take on that role; I cannot think of a collective body more lacking in moral and intellectual integrity. Whether it is a state legislature or Congress, these chambers are political entities with members who vote with one eye on the next election and the other eye on the one beyond that one.
The law should be free of such political taint, but it is not. There may be enough support for the Assembly bill to bring it to the state Senate. Not for nothing, but the president of the state Senate intends to run for governor, and I am not sure he would want to have this piece of legislation on his résumé in 2017.
There is no way of knowing whether the individuals who chose suicide would have died the horrible deaths they chose to avoid. Without that irrefutable evidence, we are left with the stories of the terrible deaths of people we have known and loved as the primary reason for embracing state-sanctioned suicide.
My mother had Alzheimer’s. By the time she died, she no longer could walk, speak or understand any conversation. She was not in pain, which was a blessing. But she was robbed of her personality; no caregiver saw the dynamic woman she had once been. Should people with Alzheimer’s be given the option to end their lives while they still have their ability to reason? If more states become like Oregon, perhaps the answer one day will be yes.
The Assembly passed a bill claiming it allows dying people to retain their dignity. The Legislature is not in the dignity business. Dignity is innate; it can’t be legislated into existence. Alleviating pain and misery is a noble goal; state-sanctioned suicide is not.
If that makes me evil, I don’t want to know society’s definition of good.
Alfred P. Doblin is the editorial page editor of The Record. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow AlfredPDoblin on Twitter.
The Physician Assisted Bill (A2270) passed the NJ Assembly on November 13th by a vote of 41-31.
The vote tally is listed below. The bill now moves to the State Senate.
Action Still Needed to Defeat A2270/S382:
Please Contact your State Senator and urge them to vote No on A2270/S382, then call and email Governor Christie and urge him to Veto A2270/S382 if it reaches his desk. Please contact your State Senator and Governor Christie by going to our Legislative Action Center here.
News on the Assembly Vote:
NJ Assembly Democrat leadership, which includes Speaker Vincent Prieto, and Asm. John Burzichelli, the bill’s sponsor, have continually pulled every dishonest trick in the book with the last minute scheduling of hearings and voting sessions on A2270. To say this has been a fair and open process would be a bald-faced lie and their shameful actions during this entire legislative process fly in the face of fairness, ethics, leadership and good governance. The latest chicanery occurred with this November 13th vote. After 5:00 p.m. on Monday (11/10), Assembly Democrat leaders, Speaker Vincent Prieto and Asm. John Burzichelli, (who is the sponsor of A2270 and others in the Democratic leadership), quietly added A2270 to the voting schedule board for November 13th. Why is this noteworthy? Because the next day was Tuesday November 11th, Veterans Day, and state offices were closed so no phone calls to Assembly members offices could be received until Wednesday morning
NJ citizens need to know how these folks operate and act accordingly at election time. Remember, everything they do affects our lives and future generations.
Below is the November 13 Assembly Vote tally on A2270.
The following people are listed as abstentions but were in fact absent: McHose, Rumpf, Angelini, Watson-Coleman, Quijano
Those present but not voting: Conaway, Caputo, Tucker
The Sept. 28 Asbury Park Press editorial, “Offer choice, mercy to terminally ill,” attempts to make the case for the Legislature to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Its position originates from the mistaken notion that the legislation contains adequate “safeguards and precautions.” Sponsors’ numerous attempts to amend the bill and change its title to try to make it sound more appealing have done nothing to mitigate the actual dangers present in the bill. Continue reading