Will Assisted Suicide Be an Option for new Mexicans?

HB 47 Makes its Way through the Legislature

Representative Deborah Armstrong (D – District 17) introduced a bill to the New Mexico state legislature on January 7, 2021, (HB 47) authorizing medically assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. The bill was named the Elizabeth Whitfield End-Of-Life Act after a late district court judge testified for physician-assisted suicide before dying from cancer in 2018. It has, as of date, passed through the House Health and Human Services Committee on a 7-4 vote, the House Judiciary Committee on a 7-3 vote, and passed through a full House vote 39-27. As recently as March 2nd, the bill was passed in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee. The End-Of-Life Act is endorsed by eight organizations, including the NAACP Albuquerque, ACLU of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Public Health Association. At the same time, three groups, including the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association, the New Mexico Association for Home & Hospice Care, and the New Mexico Medical Society, stand in a neutral position on the bill. The New Mexico Republican Party opposes HB 47, but it has received support from the current governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. The Elizabeth Whitfield End-Of-Life Act has been working its way through New Mexico’s legislature since 2019. Still, a past bill seeking assisted suicide, the End of Life Options Act, was denied in the New Mexico Senate in March 2017.
According to the AP, the bill will allow for a shorter, two-day waiting period between prescribing life-ending drugs and when those drugs are made available, instead of adopting the more common 15-day waiting period that other states have sided with. The bill also allows not only physicians but also physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe life-ending medication. It requires potential patients to have an estimated six months to live and be able to ingest the medication on their own. Advocates for HB 47 say that it would relieve patients with terminal diseases from suffering before death. At the same time, those who oppose the bill cite concerns about doctors’ ability to predict accurately whether a patient’s disease is terminal or not. Concerns were also raised over a “conscience clause,” which allows physicians to deny assisted-suicide but forces them to refer patients to another practice.
At this point, it is impossible to tell whether HB 47 will get passed or not. However, a neutral stance from several major medical groups in New Mexico, as well as relatively low opposition to the bill shows an increase in tolerance of assisted suicide in recent years, according to the AP.