The New Mexico State Legislature is currently in session, and today supporters of physician aid in dying for terminally ill patients converged on the Roundhouse in Santa Fe in support of House Bill 171, the End-of-Life Options Act. The bill was introduced by State Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Bill McCamley (D-Las Cruces).
Rep. Armstrong said, “The End-of-Life Options Act would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults in New Mexico the ability to request a prescription from their doctor that they may self-administer to achieve a peaceful death if they decide their suffering has become intolerable.”
“We have worked hard to tailor the bill to New Mexico’s unique and rural character, ensuring that those who qualify don’t face unnecessary and burdensome barriers and that doctors and caregivers are protected. To pass this bill, I need your voice to ensure my colleagues at the Capitol know how important it is to their constituents that terminally ill adults have the option to die peacefully, should their suffering become unbearable.”
According to Rep. Armstrong, 80% of New Mexicans polled agree that “the decision of a terminally ill patient to receive medication to bring about his/her death is a personal decision between the patient and his/her doctor.” And 65% of voters in neighboring Colorado recently supported a ballot initiative to authorize the practice.
The ACLU of New Mexico and Compassion and Choices both support this bill. Here are facts about HB 171, the End-of-Life Options Act:
This bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults in New Mexico the ability to request that the provider who has responsibility for his health care and is providing treatment related to his terminal illness provide him with a prescription for a medication that he can take to end his life in a peaceful manner.
–The patient must be mentally capable. Medical aid in dying cannot be chosen through a living will or advance directive.
–The patient must take the prescription medicine himself or herself. No one else can administer it. If the patient cannot take the medication and swallow it, the patient is not eligible for medical aid in dying.
–The patient has to be the originator of the request for the prescription; it cannot originate with family members or providers, or anyone else. Studies of patients participating in Oregon’s aid-in-dying program indicate 1/3 of patients who receive medication don’t use it.
–The patient must be capable and fully informed about all of the alternative forms of care available, including palliative care.
–The patient must be terminally ill. This means that the doctor must have determined that the patient’s disease is incurable and irreversible, and that he will die of that disease within a reasonably foreseeable period of time.
–The provider must confirm that the patient is acting voluntarily, free of all coercion.
–When the patient receives the prescription, the patient can choose to take the medication, or not to take the medication. It is always the patient’s choice.
–No individual health care provider is ever required to write a prescription for a patient or participate in a patient’s medical aid in dying. The provider can choose whether or not to participate.
–Euthanasia, which is available in Western Europe, Canada, and South America, is absolutely prohibited by this bill. The law permits only medical aid in dying.
Unlike the laws in some other states that permit aid in dying, HB 171:
–Does not impose a complicated form-based bureaucracy on providers and patients,
–Does not involve the state in medical decision-making; all medical decision-making is left in the hands of the patient, in consultation with his provider,
–Does not stop a patient who needs medical aid in dying quickly (in the next few days) from getting it.
In addition, the cause of death that will be listed on a death certificate will be the underlying disease, such as cancer or heart disease.
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and a pioneer of the Death Cafe movement in the United States, spoke with her state senator Cisco McSorley in his office about HB 171. Here is a video of their conversation: