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New Jersey judge blocks state’s new assisted suicide law

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The two-week-old law which allowed terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs is put on hold after a physician filed a lawsuit.

A New Jersey judge has put the state’s assisted suicide law on hold with the issue of a temporary restraining order two weeks after the law went into effect.

Judge Paul Innes of the Superior Court in Mercer County issued the order on Wednesday after a Bergen County doctor filed a lawsuit, saying that participating in assisted suicides would conflict with his religious beliefs and his responsibilities as a doctor. 

The law, which passed the New Jersey legislature and was signed by Democratic Governor Philip Murphy in April, allows New Jersey residents with terminal illnesses and less than six months to live to self-administer drugs to end their own lives.  

Lawsuit: A violation of physicians’ religious rights and duties owed patients

In his lawsuit, Dr. Yosef Glassman, who is an Orthodox Jew, said that despite the law’s provision that allows doctors to opt out and refuse to prescribe life-ending drugs, the law would still compel physicians to participate in assisted suicide.

Glassman said that the law’s requirement that physicians transfer medical records is “not only a violation of the rights to practice medicine without breaching the fiduciary duties owing to those patients … but also violations of their First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to freely practice their religions in which human life is sacred and must not be taken.”

New Jersey joined California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and the District of Columbia in legalizing medically-assisted suicide. 

Catholic Church condemned law’s failure to protect the vulnerable

The Catholic Church has also condemned the law. On August 1, the day that the law went into effect, New Jersey Bishop James E. Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen called the new law an “utter failure of government” to care for the vulnerable.

Checchio warned that the new law leaves the elderly particularly vulnerable as they may “feel undue pressure to view this as an option to prevent being a burden to others.”

An October 23 court session will take up the matter again. 

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