A few weeks back I blogged about a proposal put forth in September by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, that would give terminally ill patients the right to decide how and when to die, and grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to those patients who have less than six months to live.

It’s called the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act....and according to a recent poll…has the support of a majority of New Jersey voters.

According to this:

The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll of 433 voters found that 46 percent support Assemblyman John Burzichelli’s (D-Gloucester)”Death with Dignity Act,” while 38 percent oppose it.

The bill (A3328) would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients with under six months to live.

Patients would self-administer the drugs after requesting them verbally and then writing, signed by two witnesses, 15 days later.

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 judgment 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 bill’s introduction in September attracted a lot of media attention.
But few voters had heard of the bill. Fifty-five percent had heard nothing about it.

“That means that there’s still plenty of room for people on either side of the bill to change people’s minds,’ said Cassino.

A similar measure failed in Massachusetts last month. Three other states — Washington, Oregon and Montana — allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses to terminally ill patients.

Burzichelli hopes to hold hearings on the bill in January, and the original version of the bill called for a public referendum…however he now plans to leave that vote up to the legislature.

According to this:

"It should be a matter of legislative process as it was in 1978, when the statute was clarified to speak to this," he said. It had been silent. There was no referendum at that point."

I think the assemblyman, despite reports to the contrary, feels the proposal would meet the same fate that it did in Massachusetts.

That is, voters would have second thoughts about doctor assisted suicide and vote it down.

But isn’t “second thoughts” the safeguard built into the bill?

In other words, you make a request for a doctor to prescribe the drugs that would end your life…and then have the opportunity to make the second request…unless you decide otherwise.

I’d say leave it as a ballot item and allow the voters to decide.

Would you vote for or against the New Jersey “Death with Dignity”Act?