New Jersey introduced legislation this month that could repeal the New Jersey Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.

We often report on Death with Dignity bills that would expand access to medical aid in dying across the country, but what about bills that threaten existing laws? This month, Republican Assemblymember Robert Auth introduced an amendment (A407) that would repeal the New Jersey Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.

This amendment has been introduced every session since the New Jersey aid-in-dying law was passed in 2019. While the repeal is not likely to pass, it shows that our opponents will continue to challenge the law based on their own religious beliefs. 

In addition, Assemblymember Auth has also introduced legislation designed to further intimidate physicians or patients from seeking the law by increasing penalties for fraud or coercion, even though no instances of fraud or abuse have ever occurred, not just in New Jersey, but in all the states where medical aid in dying is legal.

Dr. Robin Plumer from Compassionate Endings New Jersey gives us insight on the challenges and successes of the law, and how the repeal would affect New Jerseyans.

New Jersey’s aid-in-dying law was passed five years ago, and as of 2022, 186 qualified terminally ill patients have been able to utilize their right to Death with Dignity via the Act. One of the biggest barriers to accessing Death with Dignity in New Jersey are the waiting periods. Dr. Plumer tells us, “[a] major challenge is that a good number of patients who start the qualification process do not get through the 15-day waiting period.”

To address this access issue, our ally, State Assemblymember Herb Conaway introduced A1880, an amendment that would waive the 15-day waiting period if a patient is not expected to survive it. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Health Committee and awaits a Committee hearing.

Despite the access issue, Dr. Plumer remains optimistic about the progress of Death with Dignity accessibility in New Jersey. She notes, “medical aid  in dying is just starting to become better known in the state.”

The potential consequence of this legislation is severe, and the repeal would be devastating for those looking for another option at the end of life. Over 9 million New Jersey residents would lose access to Death with Dignity, and Dr. Plumer suggests that “for those who are committed to medical aid in dying, they would likely travel out of state.” 

But for those unable to travel due to their illness or other factors, this end-of-life option would be taken from them.

Write your legislators requesting they protect and uphold the New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying Act by opposing A407 and passing A1880! New Jersey patients have the right to make their own end-of-life decisions, and no one has the right to take it away from them. It is important to show your elected officials that we are watching and won’t let this right be taken away from us!