Terminally ill patients in New Jersey can choose to end their lives as of Thursday.
New Jersey is now the eighth state to enact so-called 'dying with dignity' laws, joining California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington, DC.
Signed into law in April, the newly enacted bill allows patients who have been given six months or less to live to ask their doctors to write them a prescription for drugs to humanely end their lives.
Critics worry that controversial dying with dignity laws are riddled with pitfalls and loopholes, while supporters say that terminally ill patients deserve to choose to end their own suffering.
New Jersey is now the eighth state - in addition to Washington, DC - where patients with six months or less to live have the right to get life-ending prescriptions if they are mentally fit
An estimated 42 percent of Americans said that they have had at least one friend or relative that got a terminal diagnosis, according to a 2006 Pew Research Center poll.
And many of them must make the heart-wrenching decision to end a loved one's life once that person becomes unable to make their own medical decisions.
Polls consistently find that over 80 percent of Americans support giving terminal patients the right to choose to end their own lives before they are too sick to do so.
But bills to make this possible have met resistance from those concerned that families and doctors could unethically take advantage of the very sickest patients who are too distressed to think clearly.
As an assurance against this, terminal patients have to undergo extensive psychiatric evaluation to certify that they fully understand the gravity of the decision that they're about to make, and