TRENTON – Senator John H. Adler announced today that he will be introducing legislation to promote awareness for end-of-life advanced directives when the Legislature reconvenes this spring.
“On the national level, we’ve seen the pain and grieving of Terry Schiavo’s family as they fought over what they believed her dying wishes would have been,” said Senator Adler, D-Camden, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The family has had to balance their love for Terry and their desire to be with her with the desire to release the pain and let her go, and the weight of that decision has torn a family apart.
“Absent a living will or advanced directive to plainly present a dying loved one’s last wishes, the guilt and sadness of a family member who makes the ultimate decision is terrible,” added Senator Adler. “We must bring attention to these documents to allow family members to remove the heart-wrenching, unbearable decisions involved in end-of-life care.”
Senator Adler’s proposed bill would give New Jerseyans the ability to file advanced directives or living wills at two critical stages in their lives. A couple, when applying for a marriage license or domestic partnership, would be given a copy of New Jersey’s standardized form to fill out an advanced directive for end-of-life care. Also, during divorce court proceedings, the presiding judge would give both parties the chance to amend existing documents at the time, or, if none exist, to execute new advanced directives.
“I think particularly in the case of marriage, an advanced directive can be so very helpful in relieving some of the stress and anxiety of what should be done if, God forbid, something should ever happen to your partner,” said Senator Adler. “So many times, the first instinct of a surviving loved one is to make decisions with their heart, even when those decisions might be in contrast to those of an incapacitated family member. Advanced directives take the mystery and guilt out of end-of-life care.”
Senator Adler noted that New Jerseyans can fill out an advanced directive at any time through the State’s Department of Health and Senior Services Web site. For the Department’s information on advanced directives, including applications to execute an advanced directive, please visit: http://www.state.nj.us/health/ltc/advance_directives.pdf.
“Through this legislation, and other initiatives, we are trying to encourage people to make healthy choices regarding end-of-life care when they are in a position to make those decisions,” said Senator Adler. “By clarifying the final wishes of a person through advanced directives and living wills, so much pain and anguish for surviving family members can be avoided. We need to raise awareness of the value of these documents, and I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to promote a better system for grieving families dealing with end-of-life issues.”