Representative Deborah Armstrong Files HB 171 to Authorize Medical Aid in Dying in New Mexico

January 25, 2017

SANTA FE, NM– Compassion & Choices and ACLU of New Mexico commend  Representative Deborah Armstrong and co-sponsor, Representative Bill McCamley, for filing the the End-of-Life Options Act, HB 171. The measure would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults in New Mexico the ability to request a prescription from their doctor that they may self-administer to achieve a peaceful death if they decide their suffering has become intolerable.

Five years ago, two Albuquerque oncologists and a cancer patient from Santa Fe asked a New Mexico court to authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill New Mexico residents. In 2014, New Mexico Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash issued a landmark decision that ruled 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.

Last year, the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned that decision. The Court ruled 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. Compassion & Choices, the ACLU of New Mexico, and a coalition of stakeholders have worked with Representatives Armstrong and McCamley to follow through on that recommendation.

“We have worked hard to tailor the bill to New Mexico’s unique and rural character, ensuring that those who qualify don’t face unnecessary and burdensome barriers and that healthcare providers and caregivers are protected,” said Deborah Armstrong, New Mexico State Representative District 17. “No one should be forced to suffer as they die. This bill ensures that New Mexicans are able to make their own medical decisions along with their loved ones and their medical team at the end of life.”

“We are grateful that Representative Armstrong stepped up to champion this measure. Her background in healthcare and reputation of working conscientiously with her colleagues are ideal to ensuring this measure passes and that New Mexicans won’t have to suffer needlessly at the end of life,” said Elizabeth Armijo, Compassion & Choices New Mexico Campaign Organizer.

“We are thrilled that leaders in the legislature like Rep. Armstrong and Rep. McCamley were so quick to step in and fight to secure this compassionate medical care for the people they serve,” said ACLU of New Mexico Policy Director Steven Robert Allen. “Our commitment to medical aid in dying doesn’t end in the courtroom, and we are looking forward to working with the legislature to expand end-of-life options for terminally ill New Mexicans.”

Medical aid in dying already enjoys wide support in New Mexico and around the country. In a public opinion poll conducted by Research & Polling Inc., 80% of New Mexicans agreed that “the decision of a terminally ill patient to receive medication to bring about his/her death is a personal decision between the patient and his/her doctor.” In neighboring Colorado, 65% of voters voted in support of a ballot initiative authorizing the practice this past November.

Medical aid in dying is authorized in six states – Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Montana and Colorado – and recently was approved by Washington, D.C., officials, although Congress has the final say.

Compassion & Choices
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