End-of-Life Care Advocacy Group Hosted Day of the Dead Celebration
Candle lighting, procession and dance ceremony honored loved ones who have passed
To recognize Day of the Dead, Compassion & Choices, along with community members, honored the memory of loved ones who have passed. In addition to honoring our loved ones, legislators and advocates, who support the New Mexico End of Life Options Act, spoke on behalf of their support of the legislation. The bill would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable.
“We have lost some powerful and courageous advocates in recent years who gave us their precious time during their last days of life,” said Elizabeth Armijo, Regional Campaign & Outreach Manager for Compassion & Choices. “We gathered to ensure that terminally-ill New Mexicans and their families are aware that the End of Life Options Act would allow them to evaluate additional healthcare options available to them at the end of life.”
Advocates from different cultures and supporters kicked off the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebration at Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce with a procession led by Matachines danced. Outside was a colorful and decorated altar surrounded by photos of Brittany Maynard, Latino advocate Miguel Carrasquillo and other loved ones.
“New Mexicans should have the freedom to choose the end of life options that are right for them,” said Representative Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque. “We should be able to make this private and personal decision – in consultation with our doctors, our family and our faith. No one should be forced to suffer as they die.”
Maria D. Otero, co-founder of Nuestra Salud, a community-based organization, spoke on her father-in-law, Pablo, a devout Catholic who died two months ago from a very aggressive cancer that spread to his bones.
“This is not living,” Maria said as she recalled her father-in-law’s words. “Please give me something to stop the pain to end my suffering.”
The City Councils in Santa Fe and Albuquerque recently voted on bipartisan resolutions in support of medical aid-in-dying legislation in New Mexico. The New Mexico End of Life Options Act will be closely modeled after medical aid-in-dying legislation in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Montana,Washington D.C. and Hawaiʻi’. Collectively, these 8 jurisdictions represent 19 percent of the nation’s population and 30 percent of the Latino population.
The Councils’ support shows the growing momentum for medical aid-in-dying legislation in New Mexico. In 2019, New Mexico’s legislators will have the opportunity once again pass the legislation which 80% of New Mexicans support.
Seven years ago, the ACLU of New Mexico and Compassion & Choices filed suit on behalf of two Albuquerque oncologists and a cancer patient from Santa Fe asserting that the New Mexico constitution authorized medical aid in dying for terminally ill New Mexico residents. In 2014, New Mexico Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash issued a landmark ruling that terminally ill, mentally capable patients have a fundamental right to aid in dying under the substantive due process clause of the New Mexico State Constitution.
Unfortunately, in 2016 the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned that decision by ruling that terminally ill New Mexicans do not have a constitutional right to a physician’s assistance in dying, calling for “robust debate” in the legislature instead.
In response, the ACLU of New Mexico, Compassion & Choices and the NM End of Life Options Coalition have worked hand-in-hand with state Representative Deborah Armstrong, Representative Bill McCamley, and Senator Liz Stefanics to follow through on that recommendation.
The celebration occurs four years to the day since the death of Brittany Maynard, the California woman who moved to Oregon so she could die peacefully when she could no longer tolerate the suffering caused by a glioblastoma, the same kind of brain cancer that recently killed U.S. Senator John McCain.
Brittany’s advocacy inspired California, Colorado, the District of Columbia and Hawai‘i to pass laws authorizing medical aid in dying since she died on Nov. 1, 2014. Thanks to previously passed laws in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and a Montana Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit filed by Compassion & Choices, nearly one out of five Americans live in a jurisdiction where this end-of-life care option is available.