In this week’s blog post I continue to breakdown New Jersey’s Aid in Dying Act. The new law requires the medical profession to be very involved in implementing the law and complying with its requirements. The attending physician must inform the patient of his/her diagnosis, prognosis, the risks of taking the medication and must also discuss feasible alternatives. The attending doctor must determine that the patient is capable of making the decision and that he/she is acting voluntarily.
The attending doctor must also bring in a consulting doctor for a second opinion as to these requirements. If there is any question as to whether the patient is capable then the doctor must refer the patient to a mental health professional – a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker. The law also makes clear that the doctor must advise the patient of his/her right to rescind any request in the event the patient might want to change his/her mind.
How will this law impact insurance policies? One section of the law makes clear that insurance companies cannot take into account any decision by an insured to make or rescind a request for medication. Provisions in any contract, will, insurance policy or annuity that restrict a person’s rights under this law are invalid. This should prevent an insurance company from refusing to pay out death benefits under a life insurance policy because the insured exercised rights under this law.
The law contains protections for doctors and others involved in carrying out these requirements. There shall be no civil or criminal liability or any disciplinary action or loss of license for any professional or other person who complies with the law. This includes being present when the patient takes the medication ending his/her life or refusing to participate. As long as you substantially comply in good faith with the law’s requirements, then you won’t risk being prosecuted.
On the other hand, gross negligence, recklessness and willful misconduct are not protected. Any request for medication under this law that is found to be forged or altered without the patient’s authorization is a 2nd degree crime. Coercing a patient to sign a request or destroying a patient’s rescission of his/her request is a 3rd degree crime.