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New Mexico’s Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Takes Effect; California’s Hits Five-Year Milestone

Compassion & Choices kicked off the New Mexico Access Campaign to help people use and understand the state’s new law. Compassion & Choices Action Network hosted a virtual event for the End of Life Option Act’s fifth anniversary and is continuing to move forward a bill that will keep the law in place.

After years of effort, the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act went into effect June 18. The same day, Compassion & Choices launched the bilingual New Mexico Access Campaign to educate the public and provide technical assistance to healthcare providers and medical systems about the new law. This campaign is built on our 24 years of experience, starting with Oregon in 1997, helping to implement medical aid-in-dying laws in the now 11 jurisdictions that have authorized the option for terminally ill, mentally capable adults.

“Passing the law does not signal the end of the work to expand and improve end-of-life care options in New Mexico,” said Elizabeth Armijo, national advocacy director for Compassion & Choices. “It signals the start of the all-important implementation phase of the law to ensure that eligible New Mexicans have real and meaningful access to the full range of end-of-life care options, including medical aid in dying.”

Improvements written into New Mexico’s law as compared to earlier laws include: 

  • Allowing advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to serve as either the prescribing or consulting clinician. 
  • Streamlining the process for receiving a prescription for aid-in-dying medication by requiring only one written request.
  • Giving the prescribing provider the ability to waive the 48-hour waiting period between receiving and filling the prescription for aid-in-dying medication.
  • Clarifying that if a healthcare provider objects to participating in medical aid in dying, they must inform the terminally ill person and refer them to either a healthcare provider who is able and willing to carry out the person’s request or to another individual or entity to assist the requesting person in seeking medical aid in dying.

“New Mexicans should start having conversations with their healthcare providers now about whether they would be willing to write a prescription for aid-in-dying medication for an eligible terminally ill patient who requests it,” said Armijo. “There are terminally ill people right now who need this law, so it is urgent for healthcare providers to understand this compassionate medical practice and respect the decisions of terminally ill individuals who want this option for the comfort and peace of mind it brings.” 

On June 9, Compassion & Choices Action Network hosted a virtual celebration for the five-year anniversary of the California End-of-Life Option Act going into effect. The legislation included a provision that would expire at the end of 2025 unless new legislation is passed. Less than a month later, we achieved another milestone with the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee passage of this new legislation, Senate Bill 380, by a vote of 6-1. The bill would not only make the California End of Life Option Act permanent, it includes improvements that would increase access to the law, such as reducing the 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests for aid-in-dying medication to 48 hours for all eligible patients. And healthcare systems and hospices would have to post their medical aid-in-dying policies on their websites, increasing transparency for terminally ill patients who need prompt access to this information. 

The legislation has been progressing with strong support through the California legislative process, passing the Assembly Health Committee in June by a 10-3 vote and the state Senate in May by a vote of 26-8.The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“Right now I am here as the life partner of someone who used medical aid in dying last week to peacefully end his terminal suffering,” testified Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, a clinical associate professor of family and community medicine and a public health specialist in Los Altos, at a hearing for SB 380. “[My husband] Will suffered immense anxiety about whether he would be able to survive the 15-day waiting period, as his condition rapidly deteriorated. Despite the barriers he faced, my Will was able to peacefully end his suffering on his terms. I beseech you to vote YES on SB 380 — not only for the dozens of patients whose stories I have heard or whose families I have met — but also for my true love of my life: Will Forest.”

“We applaud the Assembly Judiciary Committee for taking the bold step of helping to improve and make the California End of Life Option Act permanent,” said Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices and Compassion & Choices Action Network, who testified at the hearing. “We are now one compassionate step closer toward bringing peace of mind to many terminally ill Californians and their families.”

ABOUT COMPASSION & CHOICES/COMPASSION & CHOICES ACTION NETWORK
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.


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