New Jersey Republicans Urge Gov. Phil Murphy to Make Changes to Assisted Suicide Bill

Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ).
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers in New Jersey are urging Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy to make several changes to the assisted suicide bill he said he intends to sign into law.

The legislature passed its assisted suicide bill last Monday and Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy (pictured) said he “look[s] forward to signing” the bill into law.

However, according to NJ Spotlight, some Republican lawmakers say the bill goes too far, and are now pushing Murphy to make changes to the legislation, including increased penalties for those who abuse the future law.

“There have to be extraordinary safeguards in place if we do something like this,” said Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips. “This bill is so impersonal and so disconnected from what doctors should be doing for patients.

In a letter to Murphy, DePhillips and his Republican colleague in the Assembly, Serena DiMaso, urged the governor to “conditionally veto the bill to include additional safeguards.”

Among the “safeguards” the lawmakers recommended are a requirement for psychological evaluation of terminally ill patients who may qualify for the lethal drugs, in order to rule out serious emotional issues such as depression.

The Republicans also wrote they want to ensure doctors and pharmacists may opt out of the prescriptions of the drugs that would cause death if such actions are against their moral convictions.

“Insurers must not be permitted to deny health coverage or emergency medical treatment to a patient because end-of-life narcotics have already been prescribed or been made available to a patient,” DePhillips and DiMaso also told Murphy.

“We have both personally experienced a parent who has had a terminal illness one of whom outlived their physician’s diagnosis by five full years,” the lawmakers noted. “That is why we are passionate as legislators to protect the safety of residents and avoid placing them in harm’s way.”

Lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill, however, dismissed the concerns, saying such safeguards are already included in the legislation.

As NJ Spotlight reported, the New Jersey bill is modeled in part on an Oregon law enacted 20 years ago, which has also served as a model for laws in seven other states that legalized assisted suicide.

Corinne Carey, a regional campaign director with Compassion & Choices, a group that promotes assisted suicide bills throughout the country, said the Republican lawmakers are engaging in “a cynical attempt” to undermine the future law.

The measure is “solid and sufficiently protective of patients’ safety and autonomy,” she insisted, and includes “over a dozen important safeguards,” she said.

Carey added the Republicans were attempting to “prevent terminally ill patients from using [the law], and put them in danger of suffering a needlessly painful death.”

However, Dr. T. Brian Callister of the Nevada chapter of the American College of Physicians, recently opposed similar legislation that was defeated in Maryland last week.

As the Washington Free Beacon reported, Callister opposed the legislation based on his experience with health insurers in Oregon and California who attempted to push vulnerable patients into choosing suicide via lethal drugs – a cheaper alternative to potentially life-saving treatments or hospice care.

“Maryland citizens can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for the time being, that their rights to access life-saving and life-sustaining treatments will not be trampled on by those wishing to extend their ‘right to die’ as a mandate on others,” Callister said, following the defeat of the bill in that state, according to the report. “This is a victory for senior citizens, the chronically ill, the disabled, and the terminally ill as we have a reprieve from the coercion being thrust upon them.”

Patients’ Rights Action Fund Executive Director Matt Valliere said New Jersey lawmakers who voted for the bill “failed” the state’s citizens by allowing the bill to pass.

“In other states where assisted suicide is legal, it has proven impossible to regulate and leaves the door wide open for abuse and coercion,” he warned. “The vulnerable in society: the poor, terminally ill, and people with disabilities, will be the most negatively affected by assisted suicide. New Jersey ought to be investing in better care and support at the end of life, not enshrining this dangerous public policy into law.”

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