Hospice can make a difference for those suffering
The New Jersey’s Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act took effect August 1, 2019. This legislation does not take ending one’s life lightly, and has incorporated numerous caveats and requirements a patient must first meet before being able to secure medications specific to end their lives.
As a hospice provider we are keenly aware of the pain and suffering of the terminally ill. Our goal, first and foremost to improve quality of life, control pain, and give the patient and family quality time together. “We provide palliative care to ease suffering; and encourage those facing incurable and life-threatening illnesses to consider hospice care,” explained Angelic Health CEO Dan Mikus, “Our experience tells us that it can make a difference, and our values guide us as we care for and support our patients and their families.”
There are conventional and alternative treatments that can ease suffering and allow patients to spend their final days in peace with loved ones. As an organization we advocate for continued research into non-narcotic medications to ease intolerable symptoms that lead people to seek to end their lives. As providers of hospice care we do all we can to ease suffering, but we will not assist in a patient’s choice to end their lives. We feel that assisting someone in the process of obtaining or taking medications to prematurely end their life conflicts with our values of comfort and care.
The law stipulates to request a prescription for life-ending medication in New Jersey, a patient must be: at least 18 years old, a New Jersey resident mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions, and diagnosed with a terminal disease that will result in death within six months.
- A patient who meets the requirements above will be prescribed aid-in-dying medication only if:
- The patient makes two verbal requests to their doctor, at least 15 days apart.
- The patient gives a written request to the doctor, signed in front of two qualified, adult witnesses. (The law sets out the specific form that the patient must use.)
- The prescribing doctor and one other doctor confirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis.
- The prescribing doctor and one other doctor determine that the patient is capable of making medical decisions.
- The patient has a psychological examination, if either doctor feels the patient’s judgment is impaired.
- The prescribing doctor confirms that the patient is not being coerced or unduly influenced by others when making the request.
- The prescribing doctor informs the patient of any feasible alternatives to the medication, including care to relieve pain and keep the patient comfortable.
- The prescribing doctor asks the patient to notify their next of kin of the prescription request. (The doctor cannot require the patient to notify anyone, however.)
- The prescribing doctor offers the patient the opportunity to withdraw the request for aid-in-dying medication before granting the prescription.