New Jersey court rul­ing lets as­sisted sui­cide go ahead

The Morning Call - - LOCAL / REGION - By Mike Catal­ini

New Jersey can move ahead with a new law al­low­ing ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients to seek lifeend­ing drugs, a state ap­peals court ruled, over­turn­ing a lower court’s tem­po­rary hold on the law.

Judges Car­men Mes­sano and Arnold Natali ruled Tues­day that a state Su­pe­rior Court “abused its dis­cre­tion” in block­ing the law this month.

“We con­clude the court failed to con­sider ad­e­quately the in­ter­ests of qual­i­fied ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients, who the Leg­is­la­ture de­ter­mined have clearly pre­scribed rights to end their lives con­sis­tent with the Act,” the ap­peals court wrote in its opin­ion.

Rich Grohmann, an at­tor­ney for Dr. Yosef Glass­man who brought the law­suit, says they’re ap­peal­ing to the state Supreme Court.

New Jersey’s Aid in Dy­ing for the Ter­mi­nally Ill Act took ef­fect Aug. 1. But Judge Paul Innes put a hold on the law Aug. 14.

Glass­man, a med­i­cal doc­tor prac­tic­ing in New Jersey and whose suit iden­ti­fied him as an Ortho­dox Jew, had ar­gued the law could com­pel him to vi­o­late his reli­gious and pro­fes­sional morals.

But the ap­peals court was un­con­vinced, say­ing Glass­man didn’t have stand­ing to as­sert his claims on be­half of other doc­tors, pa­tients or in­ter­ested fam­ily mem­bers.

“We fail to dis­cern how the ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tion of trans­fer­ring those doc­u­ments con­sti­tutes a mat­ter of con­sti­tu­tional im­port, or an act con­trary to a physi­cian’s pro­fes­sional obli­ga­tions,” the court wrote.

Grohmann de­clined to com­ment be­yond say­ing his client was await­ing word on whether the state Supreme Court would take up the case.

Demo­cratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill in April, mak­ing New Jersey the sev­enth state al­low­ing the prac­tice. Maine en­acted a sim­i­lar law in June, be­com­ing the eighth.

Two doc­tors musts sign off on the re­quest for life-end­ing drugs un­der the law. And the ter­mi­nally ill pa­tient must be deemed an adult res­i­dent of New Jersey who can make such a de­ci­sion and vol­un­tar­ily ex­presses a wish to die.

The law man­dates pa­tients re­quest the med­i­ca­tion twice and says they must have an op­por­tu­nity to take the de­ci­sion back. At least one of the re­quests must be in writ­ing and signed by two wit­nesses.

At least one wit­ness can­not be a rel­a­tive, en­ti­tled to any por­tion of the per­son’s es­tate, the owner of the health care fa­cil­ity where the pa­tient is get­ting treat­ment or a worker there, or be the pa­tient’s doc­tor.

Un­der the law, pa­tients must ad­min­is­ter the drug to them­selves. The pa­tient’s at­tend­ing physi­cian would be re­quired to of­fer other treat­ment op­tions, in­clud­ing pal­lia­tive care.

In 1997, Ore­gon be­came the first state to pro­vide an end-oflife op­tion.

In ad­di­tion to Maine and Ore­gon, Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado, Hawaii, Ver­mont, Wash­ing­ton and the District of Columbia all have sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

Mon­tana’s Supreme Court de­ter­mined in 2009 that state law did not pre­vent a physi­cian from pre­scrib­ing such a drug to the ter­mi­nally ill.

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