New Mexico Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Clears House Health & Human Services Committee

Victory Vote Comes After Compelling Testimony, Video Urges Legislators to Pass Compassionate Bill in 2021

The New Mexico House Health & Human Services Committee voted today 7-4 to approve a bill to expand end-of-life care options on the same day Compassion & Choices released an emotionally powerful video of a New Mexico man pleading with state legislators to enact the bill into law.  To view the video, CLICK HERE.  The bill now advances to the House Judiciary Committee. 

The legislation, the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act (HB 47), would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adults the option to request and receive medication they may decide to take to relieve unbearable suffering. The compassionate bill now moves to the House Judiciary Committee.

Before the committee vote, Jorge Otero, a software engineer from Albuquerque, testified in support of the bill. He shared the agonizing death of his father Pablo and how he pleaded for the option of medical aid in dying. 

Jorge spoke about his devout Catholic father Pablo, who remained grounded in his faith until the last moments of his life. In the video, Jorge tearfully describes how his dad died of cancer in 2018 after suffering from extreme bone and back pain, difficulty walking, incontinence and weakness throughout his frail body.

“He told me that he wished that there was something that he could take to just make it all go away,” Otero says in the video. “There is no need for somebody to suffer all the way to the end when you know there's no other recourse you can take, there's no need,” Jorge says in the video. “We honor our deceased, but we are either afraid or not supposed to, or that's just not a subject that we talk about at home. We should be able to talk about death (and plan).”

Jorge Otero’s heart wrenching video is the second one released this month by Compassion & Choices. Just last week, the advocacy group launched a very compelling video of a New Mexico woman, Maya Distasio, whose 77-year-old grandfather died alone from self-inflicted knife wounds because he could no longer tolerate the pain from acute myeloid leukemia. To view that video CLICK HERE.

Maya and Jorge’s wife, Maria Otero, also advocated for the Legislature to pass the bill during the 2019 legislative session. The House Health & Human Services Committee, House Judiciary Committee and Senate Public Affairs Committee approved the bill in 2019, but the bill did not make it to the full House and Senate for a vote.

“These compelling pleas are clear testimonies that exemplify the urgency to pass the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act during this legislative session,” said Elizabeth Armijo, National Advocacy Director for Compassion & Choices Action Network. “terminally ill New Mexicans need the option to die peacefully and they should not be forced to suffer needlessly at the end of life.”

Ten jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C. and nine states, authorize the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Collectively, there are 23 years of experience with medical aid in dying in Oregon since it became the first state to enact such a law, and an additional 40+ years of combined evidence and cumulative data with medical aid-in-dying laws passed in other jurisdictions. More than one out of 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