MSNJ Guidance on Aid in Dying Legislation
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Statement by Marc J. Levine, MD, President of the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ):
“The New Jersey Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 1504, also known as the New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The act became effective on August 1, 2019. Regulations implementing the act are not yet available.
The Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) adopted guiding principles at its annual meeting in May 2019 to assist physicians in the development of hospital or medical practice policies that will be drafted to implement the law.
The following seven principles will assist physicians and healthcare institutions draft and or evaluate policies developed under this new law. Medical practices and hospitals developing new policies or procedures to implement the New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act should consider:
- DO NOT ERODE PUBLIC TRUST IN THE PHYSICIAN/PATIENT RELATIONSHIP. There is already significant lack of trust of the medical community by some members of the public. Wondering if your physician is trying to cure your illness or is trying to convince you to die would not increase that trust. While many distrust the system, they still trust their own doctor. Discussion and implementation should not be delegated to nursing or subordinate staff but should be by the physician or Advance Practice Nurse.
- BALANCE BENEFICENCE/NON-MALEFICENCE. The physician’s responsibility is to help and not harm the patient. Ensure decisions are based on clinical criteria.
- RESPECT PATIENT AUTONOMY. Qualified adults who retain decision making capacity have the right to accept or refuse interventions and their decisions should be determinative.
- STRIVE TO REDUCE SUFFERING. A goal of medicine is to reduce patient suffering as defined by the patient.
- PROTECT VULNERABLE POPULATIONS. Prevent exploitation by involved parties whose priorities are not those of the patient. Ensure that those with disabilities are not undervalued or coerced.
- ALLOW PHYSICIAN CHOICE. No practitioner should be required to perform an activity that undermines their own deeply held moral beliefs. Physicians are obligated to ensure prompt transfer of care.
- PROTECT CONFIDENTIALITY WHILE KEEPING RECORDS TO MONITOR THE POLICY. Respect existing HIPAA requirements, but maintain transparent records of how the policy is implemented and to monitor for compliance.”
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