Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Clears Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee

Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act Now Goes to Senate Judiciary Committee
March 1, 2021

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted today (5-3) to approve the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act (HB 47). The compassionate bill would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option to obtain prescription medication they could take to die peacefully and end unbearable suffering. The bill now advances to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Last week, the House of Representatives approved HB 47 by a vote of 39-27. It was the first time the full House of Representatives held a floor vote on a medical aid-in-dying bill. In 2019, the legislation cleared the House Health & Human Services Committee, House Judiciary Committee and Senate Public Affairs Committee, but neither the full House nor the Senate considered it.

During the virtual hearing, New Mexicans from throughout the state told their stories of loved ones who suffered agonizing deaths because they did not have the option of medical aid in dying. One by one, they spoke about breast cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia and other types of terminal illnesses that ended their loved ones’ lives with needless suffering.

Jorge Otero, software engineer from Albuquerque, recalled the agonizing death of his father Pablo and how he pleaded for the option of medical aid in dying. He said his devout Catholic father remained grounded in his faith until the last moments of his life devoured by cancer in 2018.

Jorge Otero

Jorge Otero

This is not living,” he recalled as he held back tears. “I wish that there was something I could take.. to make it go away. We can not stand in the way of others who want this option. I urge you to pass this bill.”

Elizabeth Armijo, national advocacy director for Compassion & Choices Action Network, thanked committee members for their support.

“We often hear these emotional stories of terminally ill New Mexicans who just want the option to die peacefully,” she said. “We are grateful for New Mexico senators who continue to support this compassionate legislation.”

The following organizations have endorsed the New Mexico medical aid-in-dying bill: ACLU of New Mexico, Equality New Mexico, Health Action New Mexico, New Mexico Nurse Practitioner Council, National Association of Social Workers New Mexico, NAACP Albuquerque, New Mexico Psychological Association, New Mexico Public Health Association, Nuestra Salud New Mexico, and Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. The following state organizations have dropped their opposition to it: New Mexico Association for Home & Hospice Care (NMAHHC), Greater Albuquerque Medical Association (GAMA), and New Mexico Medical Society (NMMS).

The most recent national Gallup poll, conducted in May 2020, a few months after COVID-19 reached the pandemic level, shows 74% of Americans support medical aid in dying. This is a 6-point jump from the 68% support in Gallup’s pre-pandemic poll in May 2019 (see question 15 on page 2).  

It has been 22 years since Oregon became the first state to enact a medical aid in dying law. Collectively, we have more than 40 years of combined evidence and cumulative data with medical aid in dying authorized in Oregon and the nine other authorized jurisdictions. Now, more than one out in every five Americans (22%) have access to this compassionate end-of-life care option.

Compassion & Choices is comprised of two organizations that improve care and expand options at life’s end: Compassion & Choices (501(c)(3)) educates, empowers, defends, and advocates; the Compassion & Choices Action Network (501(c)(4)) focuses exclusively on legislation, ballot campaigns, and limited electoral work. 

Paid for by Compassion & Choices Action Network.

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