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August 5, 2020 | Number of The Day
Terminally ill NJ residents who were helped to end their lives by a new state law

New Jersey’s Medical Aid in Dying law took effect on Aug. 1, 2019, not without opposition. The law permits an attending physician to write a prescription for medication that a terminally ill adult — with a life expectancy of six months or less — could personally use to end his or her life. This was the eighth state, along with Washington, D.C., to enact such a law.

Between Aug. 1 and Dec 31, 2019, 12 terminally ill residents ended their lives under the law, according to an annual report by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner that is required to be made public. (Medical aid-in-dying cases must be filed with the medical examiner’s office.) The 12 included six men and six women between the ages of 50 and 93. Ten died at home, one in a nursing home and one in another home, according to a separate report by Compassion & Choices, a patients’ rights group that advocates for end-of-life individual choice. Cancer was the leading underlying illness among seven; three had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); one had heart disease and one suffered from a gastrointestinal disorder.

Under the law, the patient’s physician must attest that they are capable and acting voluntarily. The law also includes procedures and safeguards that patients, physicians, and other health care professionals must follow before the patient may legally obtain and self-administer the medication.