Suicidal People Can Now Dial 988; NJ Medical Aid In Dying Law Data Released


People in the U.S. who feel suicidal can now dial “988” instead of the standard 10-digit phone number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) that provides emergency counseling, under new guidelines adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The new code will connect callers to the federally-run NFPL’s existing network of some 170 crisis centers. Additionally, the service administers online chats for people who feel suicidal.

It is an attempt to “ease access to this potentially life-saving resource by designating a shorter, easy-to-remember, 3-digit code” that can save lives, per a FCC report. But wasn’t simply “a matter of simply pulling a proverbial switch,” explained commissioner Michael O’Rielly in a statement: the legacy wireline companies involved had to complete replacement or alterations of their infrastructures for the change at their own expense by July 2022.

Even with the switch to 988 in place, those who feel suicidal can continue using the 10-digit 1-800-273-TALK — it will remain operational.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 48,344 Americans committed suicide, and another 1.4 million people attempted to, in 2018 alone. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

According to a New Jersey Department of Health report released last week, a dozen terminally ill New Jersey residents used the state’s medical aid in dying law to end their lives last year.

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. Ten died at home, one died at a nursing home and one died in another home, the report said.

Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement released with the report, “New Jersey’s law empowers terminally ill residents to make their own end-of-life choices humanely and with respect and dignity.” The law, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in April 2019, permits New Jersey residents with a terminal diagnosis — defined as an incurable, irreversible and medically confirmed disease that is expected to end the person’s life within six months — to seek permission from two doctors to end their lives with a prescription.

The patients must make two oral requests and one written request over a minimum of 15 days. Doctors and pharmacists can refuse to cooperate with the patient’s request. However, they must give the patients their medical files to so that another physician can be sought.


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