New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying Act Update

A law that is as controversial as New Jersey’s Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (“Act”) is bound to have its challengers.

The first challenge to the Act came in the form of a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) which was issued by a Superior Court Judge in Mercer County, New Jersey on August 14, 2019.  The TRO prevents physicians from ordering life-ending medication prescriptions to patients until at least Oct. 23, 2019. The Judge granted a TRO because state agencies and regulatory boards allegedly failed to provide guidance to the State’s physicians on how best to implement the provisions of the Act.

Supporters of the Act contend that the law provides sufficient clarity to allow physicians to act without regulations from New Jersey agencies. Physicians who do not want to participate in the Act may transfer care of the patient to another physician per the patient’s request. The suit alleges that the law violates the state constitution on religious, due process, and equal protection grounds.

Oregon, the pioneer of death with dignity laws, faced similar challenges when it became the first state to allow residents to receive life-ending medication from an attending physician. Oregon and several other jurisdictions have successfully defended their laws allowing residents to end their lives in a dignified manner. In Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006), the United States Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s Death with Dignity law in a six to three decision.

Michael Salad is a partner in Cooper Levenson’s Business & Tax and Cyber Risk Management practice groups. He concentrates his practice on estate planning, business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, tax matters and cyber risk management. Michael holds an LL.M. in Estate Planning and Elder Law. Michael is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia.  Michael may be reached at (609) 572-7616 or via e-mail at msalad@cooperlevenson.com.

Shaiful Kashem is a summer associate at Cooper Levenson. He is a candidate for a J.D. at Rutgers School of Law in Camden. Shaiful may be reached at (609) 344.3161 or via e-mail at skashem@cooperlevenson.com.