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.
In reality, the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” is riddled with loopholes and contradictions that place the lives of the very people it purports to empower at grave risk of abuse and coercion.
For example, the legislation states that the process outlined in the bill should be entirely voluntary and even includes language to hold persons accountable who coerce or exert undue influence on a patient to request medication. However, other sections in the bill leave ample room for abuse by relatives, friends, caregivers and the medical profession.
It includes in its definition of “capable,” “communication through persons familiar with the patient’s manner of communication if those persons are available,” meaning that another person can communicate with physicians and caregivers relating to health care decisions under this act, in addition to the patient.
Additionally, the legislation requires that two persons witness and sign a form that says the patient is capable and is acting voluntarily to sign the request. As stated in the legislation, “at least one of the witnesses shall be a person who is not related to the patient by blood, marriage or adoption.” This means that the second person can, in fact, be a person who is related to the patient by blood, marriage or adoption. Conversely, but just as troubling, is the provision that one or both of these witnesses does not need to be “personally known” to the patient if the patient has provided proof of identity to the witness(es).
In another typical example of doublespeak that is pervasive throughout the legislation is a section that amends current New Jersey law, which makes it a crime punishable by law to aid suicide. The proposed changes exempt “any action taken in accordance with the provisions of the Act.” Further, it excludes all persons from “civil or criminal liability or professional disciplinary action for any action taken in compliance with the provisions of the bill, including person(s) who are present when a qualified terminally ill patient self-administers medication prescribed pursuant to this act.”
How can legislation that exempts all persons from liability be considered legitimate when it does not adequately protect vulnerable patients who may be coerced or forced into taking the lethal medication once the prescription is filled? What if the patient changes his or her mind and is forced to take the lethal drugs? Who would know, since the legislation does not require that a witness be present?
If this act becomes law in New Jersey, will the insurance companies deny coverage for treatment but instead pay for assisted suicide because it is less costly? This is precisely what happened in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup are two examples of patients who were informed that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t pay for their chemotherapy, but would pay for assisted suicide.
Government’s primary duty is to protect the life of its citizens. This legislation runs counter to that principle. It turns doctors, trained to heal and save lives, into agents of death who can directly and intentionally act to end or participate in ending another person’s life. It leaves vulnerable any elderly people open to abuse by family members, caregivers, financial beneficiaries and a profit-driven health insurance industry.
There is no clamor to pass this law in our state. The legalization of assisted suicide is being pushed here in New Jersey and other states by a well-funded outside lobbying group called Compassion and Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society. During a February 2013 legislative hearing which I attended, the President of Compassion and Choices boasted that she wrote the NJ assisted suicide legislation. The group’s donors include billionaire investor George Soros and population control activists.*
New Jersey citizens deserve to know the facts about the dangers of this legislation instead of being fed empty promises by the purveyors of death who hide behind the mask of compassion and choice.
Marie Tasy is executive director of New Jersey Right to Life.
*Editor’s note: This section was excluded from the online edition of this op-ed.
*Update: Other problems with the bill:
The bill allows for taxpayer funding of assisted suicide. This was exposed thanks to Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) during the 11/13/14 floor debate in an exchange with the bill’s sponsor who admitted they deliberately left it out. It should be noted that unless taxpayer funding is expressly prohibited in the legislation, it leaves the door open for taxpayer funding of the practice.
In addition to the fact that someone other than the patient is allowed to speak for the patient under this bill to communicate they desire the lethal drugs, the bill allows that communication to be made to a “health care provider.” Under the bill, “health care provider” is defined as a “health care professional or health care facility.” So, not only does this bill allow someone other than the patient to communicate the patient’s decision to take the lethal medicine, but it allows that communication to be made through a receptionist or voicemail message system of a health care facility. This bill is riddled with contradictions and is fatally flawed, Responsible, thoughtful legislators should vote against it.
*Update: Under this bill, someone could take out a life insurance policy on the date of, or after the bill goes into effect, and then take the lethal drugs to end their life or (be coerced into taking the lethal drugs by the beneficiary of the policy or will), and the insurance companies would have to pay out the amount of the insured’s policy to the beneficiaries. Where are the insurance companies? Why aren’t they objecting to this obvious situation that is ripe for abuse?
The bill says the following:
14. (New section) a. A provision in a contract, will, insurance policy, annuity, or other agreement, whether written or oral, made on or after the effective date of P.L. , 28 c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall not be valid to the extent that the provision would condition or restrict a person’s decision to make or rescind a request for medication pursuant to P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).
The next section of the bill (b) goes on to say that an obligation owing under a contract, will, insurance policy, annuity or other agreement made before the effective date of the bill shall not be affected by the provisions of this act;
Section c says that on or after the effective date of the act, the procurement of or issuance of a life policy or annuity or the premium or rate charged for the policy or annuity shall not be conditioned upon or otherwise take into account the making or rescinding for medication.
Please take immediate action to OPPOSE Bill A2270/S382, which will legalize physician assisted suicide in our state. Click here to tell your Senators to vote NO and get more information! The bill passed the Assembly by a razor thin margin on 11/13/14. It has now moved to the Senate. Please email and call your Senator and urge them to vote No on A2270/S382, then please email and call Governor Christie and urge him to veto A2270/S382 the bill if it reaches his desk!