A Washington attorney who leads an anti-euthanasia organization has filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in Glassman v. Grewal, a New Jersey case brought by a physician who seeks to overturn the NJ Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The law went into effect on August 1, 2019, and enables a qualified terminally ill patient to request a medication to end his or her life.
A medical doctor has challenged the law, claiming among other things that the Act violates the fundamental right to defend life. A trial court temporarily suspended the law’s enforcement. The NJ Appellate Division reversed the decision, and the state Supreme Court rejected an appeal for emergent relief. The law remains in effect and the case that challenges it is proceeding through the trial court.
Margaret Dore, the Washington attorney who filed the brief, is also president of Choice is an Illusion, a non-profit corporation that opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia. She argues in her brief that the Act is unconstitutional under New Jersey law because it is misleading. Dore says that while it was intended to be limited only to dying patients, it is not so limited in reality.
The law allows doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients with six or fewer months to live and defines self-administration as a qualified terminally ill patient administering “to the patient’s own self, medication” prescribed pursuant to the Act. Dore reminds the court that since the Act is not limited only to actively dying persons, but encompasses terminally ill adults predicted to have six months or less to live, that many patients who are not dying may be treated as such. Persons labeled terminally ill may, and often do, live much longer than predicted. Furthermore, treatment sometimes leads to unexpected recovery.
Dore also notes that the Act contains euphemisms. For example, it uses the term “medication” to describe the lethal substance used to kill patients, when in fact the term is normally understood to be something that treats disease or injury.
Dore reminds the court that those assisting in suicide can have an alternative agenda. She cites as examples cases where those assisting were seeking to gain financially from the ill person’s death, either through acquiring the patient’s money or through life insurance. Also, the medical personnel involved can have a hidden agenda, such as doctors who get a thrill from killing. While the Act has been worded to attempt to avoid these situations, it is impossible to clearly understand if a person whom the doctor does not know well is truly requesting the meds voluntarily.
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