By Adrienne Dare of the Silver City End of Life Options Coalition

The Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act has been pre-filed. The bill, HB90/SB153, will be considered in the 60-day 2019 New Mexico legislative session. This bill would make medical aid in dying (described below) available as a choice to a terminally ill, competent adult if suffering becomes unbearable at the end of life.

A day focusing on the New Mexico End of Life Options Act will take place on January 29 at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe. From 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., a press conference will be held in the Rotunda with featured speakers including Representative Deborah Armstrong (a bill sponsor), Compassion & Choices CEO Kim Callinan, and Dan Diaz (whose wife used medical aid in dying in Oregon). From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. various activities will take place and information packets will be distributed.

In Silver City, our End of Life Options team has been meeting monthly. We have given various presentations and sponsored a viewing of the video “How to Die in Oregon” at the public library. Additionally, we have published a number of articles in this “Compassionate Care at End of Life” column, which we encourage you to read for a more complete background on this topic.

A statewide group established in 2016, the New Mexico End of Life Options Coalition is a broad based and inclusive partnership whose specific goal is to authorize and implement medical aid in dying in New Mexico. The mission is to inspire individuals, healthcare providers, organizations, and communities to understand and advocate for a full range of end-of-life options for all New Mexicans, so that each individual may choose to have end of life care as they wish.

Listed below are the eligibility criteria and key principles of New Mexico’s Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act. We recognize that this language provides a starting point and will be subject to much debate and discussion. Hence, what ultimately emerges as the final bill may differ from this current version.    

Eligibility Criteria:

  • 18 years of age or older.
  • Diagnosed with a terminal illness that is incurable and irreversible and likely to cause death within a foreseeable period of time.
  • Mentally capable of making an informed decision.
  • Physically capable of self-administering the life-ending medication.

Key Principles:

  • Health care provider defined as an MD, DO, Advanced Practice Nurse or Physician Assistant.
  • Diagnosis must be confirmed by consulting provider and if appropriate, a mental health professional to evaluate mental competency.
  • Qualified individual must sign a witnessed request form that is explicit about medical aid in dying.
  • Creates a “right to know” about all medically appropriate options available to the qualified individual.
  • Grants immunity from both civil and criminal liability and from professional discipline for all involved as long as they provide reasonable care and good faith in compliance with the EOLO Act.
  • No health care provider is required to participate as long as referral information is provided to a requesting individual and records are forwarded.
  • The State 1963 Assisted Suicide Statute is amended to create a clear exception for those who are acting pursuant to the EOLO Act.

We, as a group, support medical aid in dying as a legal option for our terminally ill. The end of life can be improved when we talk about our wishes, understand all our choices, and have an appropriately broad set of options to cover our diverse needs and wishes.

For more information on end of life options see the following resources:

Compassion & Choices and Death with Dignity National Center

To contact the Silver City End of Life Options Coalition or leave comments: sceolocoalition@innerconnections.us