Last week I told you about the new law that will become effective August 1 which permits certain New Jersey residents under certain circumstances to end their own lives. This week we’ll look at the law’s specific and very detailed requirements.
The law permits a terminally ill patient to make a request for medication that the patient can then self administer to hasten his/her death. The patient must be:
1. Terminally ill which means in a terminal stage of an irreversible fatal illness, disease or condition with a prognosis based on a reasonable medical certainty to result in a life expectancy of 6 months or less;
2. a New Jersey resident;
3. capable of making the decision which means having the capacity to make health care decisions and communicate those decisions to a health care provider
The law also makes clear that a guardian, conservator or health care representative under a health care directive may not make the decision to request the medication to end the patient’s life, although these individuals may communicate the patient’s decision if the patient so requests.
There are other specific requirements contained in the law. For example, the patient must make 3 requests for the medication, 2 verbally and 1 in writing. The verbal requests must be made at least 15 days apart, although the written request can be made at the same time as the 1st verbal request or later. Then the doctor must wait 48 hours before writing the prescription.
There is a suggested form that can be used to satisfy the written request. It must be signed and dated by the patient and 2 witnesses. One of the witnesses must not be a relative by blood, marriage or adoption. That nonrelative witness also cannot be someone who would benefit from the patient’s estate by way of will or operation of law. It also cannot be the patient’s attending physician.
Finally, the witnesses cannot be an owner, operator or employee of the health care facility where the patient resides or is getting treatment unless the patient is in a long term care facility. If the patient is in a long term care facility, then one witness shall be designated by that facility.
Next week we’ll focus on what is required of the medical profession.