The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. Adults have the fundamental right, in collaboration with their health care providers, to control decisions about their own health care unless they lack the mental capacity to do so. This State recognizes, in its law and public policy, the personal right of the individual patient to make voluntary, informed choices to accept, to reject, or to choose among alternative courses of medical and surgical treatment.
b. Modern advances in science and medicine have made possible the prolongation of the lives of many seriously ill individuals, without always offering realistic prospects for improvement or cure. For some individuals, the possibility of extended life is experienced as meaningful and of benefit. For others, artificial prolongation of life may seem to provide nothing medically necessary or beneficial, serving only to extend suffering and prolong the dying process. This State recognizes the inherent dignity and value of human life and within this context recognizes the fundamental right of individuals to make health care decisions to have life-prolonging medical or surgical means or procedures provided, withheld, or withdrawn.
c. In order that the right to control decisions about one's own health care should not be lost in the event a patient loses decision making capacity and is no longer able to participate actively in making such health care decisions, this State recognizes the right of adults, who have the mental capacity, to plan ahead for health care decisions through the execution of advance directives, such as living wills and durable powers of attorney, and to have the wishes expressed therein respected, subject to certain limitations.
d. The right of individuals to forego life-sustaining measures is not absolute and is subject to certain interests of society. The most significant of these societal interests is the preservation of life, understood to embrace both an interest in preserving the life of the particular patient and a related but distinct interest in preserving the sanctity of all human life as an enduring social value. A second, closely related societal interest is the protection of individuals from direct and purposeful self-destruction, motivated by a specific intent to die. A third interest is the protection of innocent third parties who may be harmed by the patient's decision to forego therapy; this interest may be asserted to prevent the emotional and financial abandonment of the patient's minor children or to protect the paramount concerns of public health or safety. A fourth interest encompasses safeguarding the ethical integrity of the health care professions, individual professionals, and health care institutions, and maintaining public confidence and trust in the integrity and caring role of health care professionals and institutions. Finally, society has an interest in ensuring the soundness of health care decision making, including both protecting vulnerable patients from potential abuse or neglect and facilitating the exercise of informed and voluntary patient choice.
e. In accordance with these State interests, this State expressly rejects on both legal and moral grounds the practice of active euthanasia. No individual shall have the right to, nor shall any physician or other health care professional be authorized to engage in, the practice of active euthanasia.
f. In order to assure respect for patients' previously expressed wishes when the capacity to participate actively in decision making has been lost or impaired; to facilitate and encourage a sound decision making process in which patients, health care representatives, families, physicians, and other health care professionals are active participants; to properly consider patients' interests both in self-determination and in well-being; and to provide necessary and appropriate safeguards concerning the termination of life-sustaining treatment for patients who lack mental capacity as the law and public policy of this State, the Legislature hereby enacts the New Jersey Advance Directives for Health Care Act.
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