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New Jersey Panel Advances End-Of-Life Bill

By Cleve Bryan

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) – A bill allowing for terminally ill people to take life-ending medication passed the Assembly Health and Senior Service Committee on Thursday.

The bill sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D – Gloucester Co) requires a patient to get their doctor and a consulting physician to confirm they have a terminal illness and less than six months to live.

They would have to be able to administer the medicine themselves and have at least one non-family member confirm they are of sound mind.

“This is not presented as an alternative to treatment, this is presented as a choice for a person and decisions for self determination at the end of their life,” says Burzichelli.

The vote passed with support from Democrats and opposition from Republicans.  Governor Christie has said previously he does not support the bill.

Among those who testified Thursday that the are opposed are faith-based organizations, hospice workers and advocates for the disabled.

New York City police detective Steven McDonald, who suffered a gunshot wound that left him a quadriplegic 28 years ago, testified against the bill.

“There is quality life even when people suffer a terminal illness or catastrophic injury,” McDonald told CBS 3.

Debra Dunn testified in support of the bill saying her husband’s death from pancreatic cancer last year was prolonged and heartbreaking.

“There are a small percentage of people who want the option and they should have the right to choose. Somebody like my husband didn’t have that right and we watched him have a torturous death,” says Dunn.

Five states currently have laws allowing for what some call assisted suicide.

A similar bill was previously moved through committee in New Jersey only to see it expire before a full floor vote.

Burzichelli says he’s open to revising the bill to strengthen concerns of potential abuse.

“I think this time around it will continue to make progress because people have an interest in this, people want another choice,” says Burzichelli.

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