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New Jersey's 'medical aid-in-dying' law upheld by state Supreme Court

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Roz Brown

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(New Jersey News Connection) After a five-year court battle, New Jersey's medical aid-in-dying law has been affirmed by the state's Supreme Court, which rejected an attempt to overturn the statute. 

Signed by the governor in 2019, the law was soon challenged by a physician based on religious, personal and constitutional grounds. It allows mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to get a prescription they can use to end their lives.

Dr. Paul Bryman, a hospice and palliative care physician, is an advocate for medical aid in dying for people who feel their suffering is intolerable.

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"I think it's important that that option is available for people who choose to avail themselves of it. It's not for everyone and it's someone's choice whether they want to use that. No one's forced to do it," he explained.

Bryman practices geriatric and internal medicine and believes there are adequate legal safeguards to make sure patients are protected. The law was briefly suspended in August 2019, but reinstated 13 days later as court proceedings continued.

The nonprofit group Compassion & Choices expressed support for the decision as well as expanded and improved end-of-life care options. 

Alan Howard, Compassion & Choices attorney, urged the justices to uphold a lower court's ruling.

"We are grateful that the Supreme Court recognized that there are terminally ill New Jersey residents who are counting on this end-of-life care option to bring them peace of mind during this difficult time," said Howard. "Dying people should have this compassionate option to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable." 

Bryman added a total of 186 terminally ill New Jerseyans have used the medical aid-in-dying law and believes the court made the right decision. 

"I'm glad that it's finally over and that this law's available for people in New Jersey who have the right to their own health-care decisions," he said. 

In addition to New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and nine other states, which represent 22% of all Americans, have authorized medical aid in dying.