Skip to content

First data published about the effect of the New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act

On Friday the 31st of July 2020, the state Department of Health of New Jersey released their 2019 Data Summary about the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, that is in force since the 1st of August last year.

12 patients used the law
From August 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, a dozen terminally ill New Jersey residents used the state’s new medical aid in dying law to end their lives. The group consisted of six men and six women, all in the ages of 50 to 93. The mean and median ages were both 71 years. All but three had been diagnosed with cancer, three had a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, one had a pulmonary disease and one had a gastrointestinal disorder.

Six were married, three were widowed, two were divorced and one was single. Eleven of them were white, one person was Asian. None of the twelve were black, hispanic, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, American Indian, or from another race of two or more races. Ten died at home, one died at a nursing home and one died in another home, the report said. In 67% of cases, the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner (OCSME) was notified of the death via mailing-in of required forms. – In 33% of cases, the OCSME was notified of the death via a phone call. The report does not include data from 2020.

The act
The New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (P.L. 2019, c. 59) permits an attending physician to write a prescription for medication that would enable a qualified terminally ill patient to end his or her life. The Act was approved April 12, 2019 and went into effect August 1, 2019.

Conditions of the act
The Act defines “terminally ill” as “the terminal stage of an irreversibly fatal illness, disease, or condition with a prognosis, based upon reasonable medical certainty, of a life expectancy of six months or less. The Act defines an “attending physician” as a “physician who has primary responsibility for the care of the patient and treatment of a patient’s terminal disease.” The Act requires a qualified terminally ill patient to be a capable adult resident of New Jersey who has been determined to be terminally ill by his or her attending physician and a consulting physician.

A patient can obtain a prescription for medication to end his or her life only if he or she has made an informed decision. A request for medication must be made twice orally and once in writing. The oral requests must be separated by at least 15 days. The written request would have to be signed and dated by the patient and witnessed by at least two people who attest that the patient is capable and acting voluntarily.

Compassion & Choices
Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit that has helped states enact aid in dying laws, said 42 medical centers, hospitals, and hospices across the state have adopted policies that help their doctors offer aid in dying services. The organization also has trained more than 500 New Jersey healthcare providers and answered hundreds of questions about the new law.

Read more at the website of NJ.