New Jersey bishops approve revised advance directives

CAMDEN — Revised advance directives for health care were approved on Oct. 20 by the Catholic bishops of New Jersey to replace directives approved in 1998.

The directives will be posted on the New Jersey Catholic Conference website ( in the near future.

The revised directives, in the Statement of Belief, says: “As an adult, I have the right to make decisions about my health care. As a Catholic, I believe that I may never choose my own death as an end or a means.”

The advance directives address both philosophical and practical concerns, stating that Catholics believe life “is a holy gift from a loving God,” and including sections on choosing a health care representative, treatment options and organ donation.

The Catholic bishops along with the Catholic Health Care Partnership of New Jersey have been working closely with the State Legislature to add amendments in line with Catholic teaching to Assembly Bill 4098, according to Deacon Patrick R. Brannigan, NJCC executive director.

The Assembly bill would allow hospitals to appoint surrogates who would make health care decisions for adult patients lacking the capacity to make their own decisions.

There are several options in the bill for a health care proxy. The first is the spouse or domestic partner or civil union couple followed by a son or daughter over 18. Another is the patient’s parent, then a brother or sister over 18. A grandchild over 18 is another option, as is a grandparent or a close friend of the patient (the requirements for this designation are spelled out in detail in the bill).

Assembly Bill 4098 will give hospitals the right to designate a surrogate as a health care representative if an advanced directive has never been filed, said Deacon Brannigan.

“We have been working closely with the Legislature to include our revisions as an amendment to the bill,” the deacon said.

Deacon Brannigan pointed out that the Assembly bill will allow for criminal prosecution of any representative who knowingly makes decisions that are detrimental to the patient.

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