Assisted suicide is legal in N.J. but key medical society still opposed after vote

With a New Jersey law set to take effect in August allowing terminally ill residents to end their lives with medical help, doctors belonging to the state’s largest medical organization voted not to end the group’s formal opposition to assisted suicide.

But delegates at the Medical Society of New Jersey’s annual conference did adopt a set of guidelines to help doctors decide whether to write lethal prescriptions under the new law.

Reached by phone after the votes on Saturday, John Poole, the organization’s president, said the guidelines — like the law — leave the decision up to individual doctors…

Both supporters and opponents of the new law found encouragement in the medical society’s actions.

Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, a national organization that fights assisted suicide legislation, said the defeat of the motion to end the society’s formal opposition to the practice “shows the strength and wisdom of medical ethics when faced with an ill-advised and dangerous public policy.”

“The MSNJ guidance specifically notes that assisted suicide poses a threat to the already fragile physician-patient relationship,” Valliere said in a statement. “This is especially the case for vulnerable people, including those who live with disabilities, who already experience inequity when it comes to health care access.”

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