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New Mexico Joins End-of-Life Movement with Governor's Signature


Friday, April 9, 2021   

SANTA FE, N.M. - New Mexico residents who are terminally ill but remain mentally capable will soon be able to get medication that allows them to die peacefully to end unbearable suffering.

Yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 47, also known as the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act.

It allows a person suffering a terminal illness with six months or less to live, to request prescription medication from a healthcare provider that they could use if they decide to end their own life.

Kim Callinan, network president and CEO of the Compassion & Choices Action Network says by passing the bill, New Mexico becomes the 10th state to embrace an end-of-life choice.

"When people find out that they have a terminal prognosis," said Callinan, "one of the biggest concerns is, 'Will I have to suffer at the end?' This legislation allows a person to avoid the very worst, the very last part of the dying process."

The new law contains strict eligibility requirements and safeguards to regulate the practice.

Elizabeth Armijo, national advocacy director with Albuquerque's Compassion & Choices Action Network, said some terminally ill patients in other states have elected not to use the medication, but having it gives them peace of mind.

"We expect that they do it in consultation with their family, with their loved ones or with their faith leaders," said Armijo. "But at the end of the day, it's really about that individual's decision, and it's their complete autonomy."

The New Mexico bill was named for Elizabeth Whitefield, an Albuquerque family-law judge and attorney, who advocated for a version of the bill before losing an 11-year battle with cancer in 2018.

Callinan said deaths among the elderly from COVID-19 may be increasing momentum for end-of-life options, but she also believes there's a generational component.

"You're in the 'sandwich generation' now, with the baby boomers who are contemplating their own mortality while also caring for their of elderly parents," said Callinan. "And they're seeing the travesty of loved ones suffering unnecessarily at life's end."

The new law is modeled after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Colorado has a similar law, and a comparable bill is now before the Nevada Legislature.

Disclosure: Compassion & Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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