Judge Stops NJ Doctors from Helping Patients End Their Lives
A state judge has put a temporary stop to a new law that allows doctors to write prescriptions that will end the lives of terminally ill patients. Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that his administration intends to defend the measure.
A Superior Court judge sitting in Trenton on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order requested by a doctor suing the state, NJ.com reported. The law has been halted until at least the end of October.
The legal challenge calls into question whether state regulators are ready to implement the law.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law, which went into effect on Aug. 1.
During a news conference on Thursday, Murphy said the state is "going to fight" the lawsuit and that the Attorney General's Office "is going to put some guidance out."
The law allows doctors to assist terminally patients who want to end their lives when they they have a prognosis of of six months or less to live.
Murphy on Thursday reiterated that his support for the law was difficult considering that he was raised in the Catholic faith, which opposes suicide and physician-assisted end-of-life measures.
Murphy said he came around to supporting the bill because it included "multiple layers of belts and suspenders."
"I got convinced that it shouldn't be the law that dictates how things end, but it should be you and your loved ones," he said.
The law has several safeguards: the patient has to be able to give themselves the drugs; the patient needs two witnesses to attest to their ability to make the decision on their own and at least one of the witnesses has to be a disinterested party who will not gain from the patient's death. The witnesses also cannot be the doctor writing the prescription or an employee of their health care facility.
The patient also is required to get a second medical opinion and their doctor has to refer the patients to experts on pain management.
The patient's request for the drugs has to be made two times orally, 15 days apart, and once in writing. Patients are allowed to change their mind.
Medicare and VA benefits cannot be used to pay for the drugs.
More details about the law are available from the state Health Department.
Aid-in-dying laws are in effect in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C. Maine's law will go into effect this year.
David Matthau contributed to this report.