Source: NJ.com Opinion
My sister and I are nurses who are disabled by life-shortening diseases. As a result, we know from first-hand experience about both the limits of modern medicine at life’s end and the challenges of living with disabling medical conditions.
I’m 61 and have suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years. It has invaded my lung tissue and requires me to wear an oxygen tank most of the day to breathe. I’ve had 18 surgeries. My younger sister, Melissa, suffers from small cell lung cancer, the most deadly of all lung cancers.
I enjoy life — I plan to fight my illness for as long as I can. Neither of us wants to die, but we know we are going to die long before the end of our natural lives. When that time is imminent, and if our suffering becomes unbearable, we both would like to have the opportunity to die in our own way, at home, with our family and friends around us.
The Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Act would provide terminally ill New Jerseyans with six months or less to live the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end intolerable suffering. Medical aid-in-dying laws promote and supplement, rather than compete against, hospice, improving end-of-life care for many people who may never need or ask for this option.
Contrary to claims by some disability rights groups outside New Jersey, polling shows most New Jerseyans with disabilities (63 percent) support medical aid in dying by nearly the identical percentage of all New Jerseyans (62 percent).
In fact, the New Jersey legislation has more than a dozen safeguards to prevent abuse and coercion. For example, two doctors must confirm the terminal prognosis, that the requesting person is mentally capable of making their own medical decisions and is physically able to self-ingest the medication, the person must make two oral requests for the medication, as well as a written request witnessed by two people who can confirm the person is voluntarily making the request.
The reality is there will never be enough safeguards for some people who oppose medical aid in dying. All my sister and I ask is that our lawmakers not allow a minority of New Jerseyans to deny this option to a majority of their constituents like us who want it.
I hold my right to determine my future and to control my life in higher regard than those who don’t believe in the aid in dying bill.
We recently recorded a video for urging the New Jersey Assembly and Senate to pass the Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Act (A1504/S1072) before the end of year. You can watch it by clicking here.