Colorado Rejects Physician Assisted Suicide: Time for NJ to do the same

Colorado against pas

Colorado Rejects Right-to-Die Legislation

Colorado lawmakers rejected a proposal to give dying patients the option to seek doctors’ help ending their lives, concluding a long day of emotional testimony from more than 100 people.

For one lawmaker who voted no, the issue was personal. Tearfully telling her colleagues she was a cancer survivor, Democratic Rep. Dianne Primavera recalled how a doctor told her she wouldn’t live more than five years.

But she found a doctor who gave her a different opinion.

“And he took me in his care, and I am here today 28 years later,” she said.

Doctors who opposed the measure told lawmakers earlier that allowing dying patients to seek life-ending medications from a physician closed off the possibility of a recovery when a prognosis can sometimes be wrong.

A House committee considering the bill voted 8-5 against it after dozens of people with serious illnesses and others who have seen relatives suffer packed the Colorado legislative hearing.

The vote comes as a handful of other states, including California and Pennsylvania, consider laws to allow the terminally ill get doctor-prescribed medication to die.

Five states allow patients to seek aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

“This bill represents a very personal freedom that for some is taken away in the final stages of their illness,” said Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal, one of the bill sponsors. “Physicians give patients the best possible care. But there comes a time when a physician is no longer able to heal.”

Religious organizations opposed the measure, saying it facilitated suicide. But supporters argued that terminally ill patients should control when they die.

The story of Brittany Maynard last year spotlighted the debate over whether doctors should be able to prescribe life-ending medication to patients. Maynard, 29, moved from California to Oregon after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer so she could use that state’s law. She died Nov. 1.

Colorado’s bill was modeled after Oregon’s. It would have required dying patients to get two doctors to sign off on their oral and written requests to end their lives. The patients also would have needed to be found to be mentally competent and be able to administer the life-ending medication themselves.

One of the opponents to the bill, Carrie Ann Lucas, spoke on behalf of Not Dead Yet, a New-York based disability rights group.

Lucas uses a wheelchair and ventilator because of a neuromuscular disease. She told lawmakers that she worries the proposal would make it easy for a disabled person who is depressed to get medication from a doctor. Without her ventilator, Lucas told lawmakers, she would have only hours to live. And, she said, if she were to get depressed, she thinks she could go to a doctor who doesn’t know her well to get the drugs.

“And they probably would give me that lethal prescription instead of referring me to mental-health treatment that I would so desperately need,” said Lucas, 43.

Boulder resident David Hibbard, 77, told lawmakers that as a hospice physician for the past 15 years, he knows what to expect once his Parkinson’s disease and leukemia advance.

“I will be hunched over, either bed-bound or in a wheelchair,” he said, his hands shaking as he spoke. He would be unable to talk and feed himself, Hibbard told lawmakers.

“I don’t want to endure this scenario, and I certainly don’t want to have my family, my wife and my three children, have to endure watching me go through this rapid deterioration,” he said.

Lawmakers hearing the bill raised concerns about whether there are enough safeguards to prevent abuse, such a family member advocating for life-ending medications on behalf of a dying relative. Lawmakers also wondered what would happen if the medications are not used, and whether someone other than the patient could then take them.

One lawmaker, Rep. Jon Keyser, R-Morrison, said he worries Colorado could become a state known for “suicide tourism” if the bill passes.

The Colorado legislation was inspired by Charles Selsberg, 77, who urged legislators to take on the issue with an editorial published in The Denver Post shortly before his death a year ago. Selsberg died of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

His daughter, Julie Selsberg, wiped away tears after the vote. She supported the bill.

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Wyoming Adds its Voice to Says No to Physician Assisted Suicide Legislation

WyomingCommittee tables Wyoming ‘Death with Dignity’ bill, recommends interim study

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee unanimously voted to table legislation which would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medications to terminally ill patients.

The committee also recommended that an interim committee research the issue.

Proponents of the legislation argue that the legislation offers terminally ill patients a humane end-of-life option and a way to say goodbye to their families. Supporters also believe that they shouldn’t have to leave their home state to have the option available.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, called the vote the best possible outcome for House Bill 119.

“Several committee members pledged to do their best to get management council to assign it to a committee during the interim and do a study,” he said. “That’s probably more successful than it going to the floor and dying.”

The committee heard emotional testimony from Wyoming residents who would be affected by death with dignity legislation. Testifying before the committee, Alisha Loveland of Casper, told the story of her father-in-law. He was diagnosed with emphysema and knew it was a matter of time until the disease took his life. Taking matters into his own hands, he ended his life with a firearm.

Loveland told the committee that she and her husband had to clean up the aftermath.

“He had gotten to the point where he couldn’t walk even to his workshop. He knew he would eventually suffocate to death. He didn’t want to wait until the agonizing end,” she said.

“I don’t understand why we have to be medical refugees and go to another state to die. I don’t understand why we can’t stay in our own state and die in our own bed with loved ones around us.”

Rep. Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater, serves on the committee. He said that he would oppose death with dignity legislation on the house floor for spiritual reasons. He also said that legislation would put doctors in a bad place, calling the legislation a “slippery slope.” He said that health care professionals take an oath to provide the best possible care and that assisting patients dying would violate that oath.

“It would probably open some doors to some other things in society that we haven’t considered,” the legislator said.

HB119 is among more than 10 bills proposed in state legislatures across the country. Five states have death with dignity laws on the books. New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Vermont currently allow the practice.

Jessica Grennan, of Missoula, Montana, is the national field director for Compassion and Choices, the nation’s largest death with dignity proponent. She said that while she is pleased that the committee recommended that the state look into the issue, she would like to see the legislature hasten their work on the matter.

“I’m pleased that we’re going to further the conversation. I wish the people who want this end-of-life option now in Wyoming…I’m sad that they have to wait,” Grennan said.

Take Action Now: Tell your State Senator to Vote No on A2270/S382!

Executive Director Marie Tasy testifying in opposition to A2270/S382, the physician assisted suicide bill

NJRTL Executive Director Marie Tasy testifies in opposition to A2270/S382, the physician assisted suicide bill

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

DECEMBER 15, 2014, 6:37 PM    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2014, 7:59 PM

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.
Email: racioppi@northjersey.com

Let’s Be Honest: Assembly Bill is About Suicide, Not Dignity

assisted suicideDoblin: Let’s be honest: Assembly bill is about suicide, not dignity

NOVEMBER 17, 2014    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2014, 1:21 AM
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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 doblin@northjersey.com. Follow AlfredPDoblin on Twitter.

See How Your Two Assembly Members Voted on the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill, A2270. Action Needed to Defeat it in the Senate!

NJ assembly chamber

The Physician Assisted Bill (A2270) passed the NJ Assembly on November 13, 2014 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 November 13, 2014 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 (11/10/14), 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 13, 2014. 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, 2014 Assembly Vote tally on A2270.

Bill A2270. NJ Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, Asm.  11/13/2014  –  3RDG FINAL PASSAGE   –  Yes {41}  No {31}  Not Voting {8}  Abstains {0}  –  Roll Call

Andrzejczak, Bob – Yes Angelini, Mary Pat – Not Voting Auth, Robert – No
Benson, Daniel R. – Yes Bramnick, Jon M. – No Brown, Chris A. – No
Brown, Christopher J. – No Bucco, Anthony M. – No Burzichelli, John J. – Yes
Caputo, Ralph R. – Not Voting Caride, Marlene – Yes Carroll, Michael Patrick – No
Casagrande, Caroline – No Ciattarelli, Jack M. – Yes Clifton, Robert D. – No
Conaway, Herb, Jr. – Not Voting Coughlin, Craig J. – No Cryan, Joseph – Yes
Dancer, Ronald S. – No Danielsen, Joe – Yes DeAngelo, Wayne P. – Yes
DeCroce, BettyLou – No DiMaio, John – No Diegnan, Patrick J., Jr. – Yes
Egan, Joseph V. – No Eustace, Timothy J. – Yes Fiocchi, Samuel L. – No
Fuentes, Angel – Yes Garcia, Carmelo G. – Yes Giblin, Thomas P. – No
Gove, DiAnne C. – No Green, Jerry – Yes Greenwald, Louis D. – Yes
Gusciora, Reed – Yes Handlin, Amy H. – No Jasey, Mila M. – Yes
Jimenez, Angelica M. – Yes Johnson, Gordon M. – Yes Kean, Sean T. – No
Lagana, Joseph A. – Yes Lampitt, Pamela R. – Yes Mainor, Charles – Yes
Mazzeo, Vincent – Yes McGuckin, Gregory P. – No McHose, Alison Littell – Not Voting
McKeon, John F. – Yes Moriarty, Paul D. – Yes Mosquera, Gabriela M. – Yes
Mukherji, Raj – Yes Munoz, Nancy F. – No O’Donnell, Jason – Yes
O’Scanlon, Declan J., Jr. – Yes Oliver, Sheila Y. – No Peterson, Erik – No
Pinkin, Nancy J. – No Pintor Marin, Eliana – Yes Prieto, Vincent – Yes
Quijano, Annette – Not Voting Rible, David P. – No Riley, Celeste M. – Yes
Rodriguez-Gregg, Maria – Yes Rumana, Scott T. – No Rumpf, Brian E. – Not Voting
Russo, David C. – No Schaer, Gary S. – No Schepisi, Holly – Yes
Simon, Donna M. – No Singleton, Troy – Yes Space, Parker – No
Spencer, L. Grace – Yes Stender, Linda – Yes Sumter, Shavonda E. – Yes
Tucker, Cleopatra G. – Not Voting Vainieri Huttle, Valerie – Yes Watson Coleman, Bonnie – Not Voting
Webber, Jay – No Wilson, Gilbert L. – Yes Wimberly, Benjie E. – Yes
Wisniewski, John S. – Yes Wolfe, David W. – No

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