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New Jersey court reinstates assisted suicide law

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The law had been temporarily blocked by a lower court after a physician filed a suit on the grounds that it violated his religious rights and his duty to protect his patients.

A New Jersey appeals court allowed a new assisted suicide law to go into effect, reversing another court’s decision to put the law on hold after a physician filed a suit claiming that the law would force him to act against his conscience.

The court ruled on August 27 that, in putting a hold on the law, the state Superior Court had “abused its discretion,” according to a Catholic News Service report.

In its ruling, the appeals court wrote “the court failed to consider adequately the interests of qualified terminally ill patients, who the Legislature determined have clearly prescribed rights to end their lives consistent with the Act.”

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.  

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’s attorney, Rich Grohmann, plans to file an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court, according to the Associated Press.

In his lawsuit, 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. 

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.”

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