Kevorkian-esque is probably the way this looks to you on the surface.

However, if you’ve known someone with a terminal illness having been given mere weeks or months to live, and see them wither away; this bill may be the answer to that.

No doubt, though, it will be met with much debate before it sees the light of day before the full legislature.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli is proposing a bill which would allow terminally ill patients to decide how and when they should die.

It’s called the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act.

The bill would grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have less than six months to live.

"People are not favorable to a Dr. Kevorkian suicide bill that says someone who’s 45 and depressed and decides to kill themselves with help. That’s not what this bill is."

Under the bill (A3328), patients who want to end their lives would have to first verbally request a prescription, followed at least 15 days later by another verbal request and one in writing, signed by two witnesses.

After that, the doctor would have to offer the patient a chance to rescind the request and recommend the patient’s next of kin be notified. A second doctor would then have to certify the original doctor’s diagnosis and affirm that the patient is acting voluntarily and capable of making the decision.

Patients deemed to have impaired judgement would not be eligible, and the doctors would be required to refer them to counseling. And health care facilities would be able to prohibit their doctors from writing the prescriptions.

The New Jersey legislation is modeled after laws in Oregon and Washington, the only states with statutes that allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. One other state, Montana, allows it based on a court decision.

A similar measure is on the ballot this November in Massachusetts, and since the 1990s voters have rejected them in California, Maine and Michigan.

Under the bill, no law would be enacted without voter approval, but Burzichelli said he is not sure if the final version will call for a public referendum. On a personal note, I watched a close friend fight the ravages of uterine cancer, another fight stomach cancer, and yet still another suffer with terminal leukemia. The prognosis for all of them was grim but I marveled at how they fought, literally fought, with every ounce of strength in their bodies to live.

Only to have to yield in the end amidst much suffering.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this bill would have allowed them the ability to say when “enough is enough”; and given their families a sense of peace knowing that their suffering wasn’t being prolonged.

And while I note the many safeguards built into the bill to guard against possible abuse; I still can’t help but wonder if someone who’s in as fragile a state wouldn’t be somehow be victimized by someone or persons unscrupulous.

The assemblyman is right about one thing: the bill will inspire much debate before it sees the light of day before it reaches the full legislature.

How do you feel?