Santa Fe City Council Passes Medical Aid-in-Dying Resolution

September 25, 2018

The city will formally support a bill authorizing the practice when it comes before the New Mexico Legislature next year.

The Santa Fe City Council passed a bipartisan resolution in support of medical aid-in-dying legislation in New Mexico six votes to two on September 12. This makes Santa Fe the second jurisdiction in New Mexico after Albuquerque to endorse medical aid in dying. The resolution will be transmitted to New Mexico state legislators.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth. “My father died earlier this year. As a witness to his dying process, it became clear to me that people should have the option to legally choose death with dignity when their suffering becomes unbearable,” she said.

“The Council’s vote shows the growing momentum for medical aid-in-dying legislation in New Mexico,” said Elizabeth Armijo, multi-state campaign and outreach organizer, and New Mexico campaign manager for Compassion & Choices. “In 2019, our lawmakers will have the opportunity once again to pass this vital legislation, which 80 percent of New Mexicans support. It is our hope that this bill advances in time to make it a reality for the people of New Mexico living with the unbearable pain of a terminal illness.”

Community supporters showed up in force and gave compelling testimony on the positive impact the future legislation could have on terminally ill New Mexicans.

If the End of Life Options Act is enacted into law, it would make New Mexico the ninth jurisdiction in the nation to authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option. The state has been actively engaged in efforts to authorize medical aid in dying for a number of years. In fact, in January 2014, New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court issued a landmark decision asserting that terminally ill, mentally competent patients have a fundamental right to medical aid in dying under the New Mexico State Constitution. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals reversed this ruling in August 2015 in a 2-1 split decision. Upon further appeal, in late June 2016 the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled against recognizing a constitutional right to this end-of-life option, and indicated that this matter should be considered and decided by the New Mexico Legislature.

In the fall of 2016, the New Mexico End-of-Life Options Coalition was established to advocate for enactment of such legislation. The Coalition identified bill sponsors for both the House and Senate, drafted medical aid-in-dying legislation and mounted a full campaign during the 2017 legislative session. The bill had one successful hearing in the House and two in the Senate. Despite the monumental efforts of advocates and health professionals from across the state, the New Mexico End-of-Life Options Act failed to pass. Following an hour-long debate by the full Senate, SB 252 was narrowly defeated 22-20. The bill will be presented again in the 2019 legislative session.

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