New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that he would sign a legislation allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending medication. The bill was passed with the minimum number of required votes — 21 in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly. The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was approved but just barely. 

The legislation would make New Jersey the seventh state, other than the District of Columbia, to have assisted suicide law. The other states with similar laws are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Giving “terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “I look forward to signing this legislation into a law,” he said after a Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the measure.

The bill will grant adult residents of the state with six months or less to live the right to request life-ending medication. Under the bill, there are several measures including attestation by two physicians that the person has less than six months to live. It would also require patients to make the request three times — twice orally and once in writing — before they receive the medication. They will also have a 15-day waiting period in case they wish to withdraw their request. Patients also need to have two witnesses who would sign the decision, verifying the patient is of sound mind. Of the two witnesses, one witness must not be a family member, a beneficiary of the patient’s will or the attending physician. Legislators called these measures “safeguards.”

If a patient clears all the safeguards, they will have to self-administer the medication.

The process of advancing the legislation has been going on since 2012. It was passed by the Assembly in 2014 and in 2016, but it was stalled in the Senate both the times.

The bill gained some popularity after 29-year-old Brittany Maynard — a terminally-ill brain cancer patient — and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved to Portland from California in 2014. She moved so she could use the Oregon law to end her life on her own terms.

California passed its own law on the matter in October 2015. The End of Life Option Act requires patients to submit three requests to the physician before they are given the medication. The law took effect June 9, 2016. The End of Life Options Act was legalized in Colorado in November 2016 and took effect in January 2017. The Death with Dignity Act of 2016 was legalized in the District of Columbia on Dec. 19, 2016. The law was made effective on Feb. 18, 2018. Hawai’i Our Care, Our Choice Act was signed into a law on April 5, 2018 and took effect on Jan. 1, 2019. An Act Relating to Patient Choice and Control at End of Life was signed into a law in Vermont on May 20, 2013. The Death with Dignity Act of Washington which was passed on Nov. 4, 2008. The state of Oregon also has the same eligibility criteria for the patient and the act was decided on Nov. 8, 1994. In all these states, it is the physician who administers the drug.

Supporters of the law in New Jersey said it would give patients the right to decide their lives in a dignified manner. “There is no good reason for them to be forced to prolong their pain and suffering or to prolong the grief of their loved ones if they make that choice,” Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari said.