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A measure sponsored by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer to make end-of-life care decisions easier for New Jersey families has been signed into law.

The new law (S-2199/A-3839) will establish the New Jersey Advisory Council on End-of-Life Care in the Department of Health and Senior Services.

“End of life care decisions are often very difficult for loved ones to make, and even more difficult for many to discuss,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Hopefully this council will help offer the necessary guidance to make this process easier for families.”

The bill was approved by the Assembly in June by a vote of 71-4.

The advisory council will be charged with conducting a thorough and comprehensive study relative to the quality and cost-effectiveness of, and access to, end-of-life care services for all residents in New Jersey. The council will also be required to develop and present policy recommendations relating to state agencies, policymakers, health care providers, and third party payers.

In developing its recommendations, the advisory council’s overriding concern will be to promote an end-of-life care paradigm in which patients’ wishes are paramount and they are provided with dignified and respectful treatment that seeks to alleviate their physical pain and mental anguish as much as possible.

The advisory council will be comprised of 21 members, including: the Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Human Services, or their designees; two members each from the Senate and the General Assembly to be appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the General Assembly, respectively, who in each case are to be members of different political parties; the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly or his designee; and 14 public members who are residents of New Jersey, to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, with a wide variety of specified backgrounds related to end of life care.

The advisory council will be required to report to the Governor and the Legislature no later than 18 months after the date of its organization on the results of its activities.