Proponents say the measures would improve the care people receive as they near death and help ensure that their wishes are honored.
For example, they cite the measure that would create a standardized document called Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, which indicates to health-care providers a person's specific orders regarding life-sustaining treatment.
Such documents typically are used by those with serious medical conditions or terminal illnesses and, in most cases, would supplement a patient's wishes conveyed through an advance directive. The program would be developed, overseen, and publicized by the Department of Health and Senior Services.
The document would be "a smart, efficient way for individuals to communicate their medical wishes," said Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D., Bergen), a primary sponsor of the measure. "It not only helps physicians understand the wishes of their patients, but eases the burden on families who might be overwhelmed during understandably emotional circumstances."
Other primary sponsors in the Assembly include Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D., Burlington).
In the Senate, Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) and Teresa Ruiz (D., Essex) sponsored both that measure and the bill to create a 21-member council charged with reviewing the quality and cost-effectiveness of end-of-life care. The panel also would develop and present policy recommendations relating to state agencies, policymakers, health-care providers, and third-party payers.
The council would consist of 14 public members, the commissioners of the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Human Services, and four state lawmakers.
"End-of-life care decisions are often very difficult for loved ones to make, and even more difficult for many to discuss," said Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D., Essex). "Hopefully, this council will help offer the necessary guidance to make this process easier for families."