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Santa Fe City Council Passes Resolution in Support of Medical Aid in Dying

Majority Vote to Endorse End-of-Life Options Legislation in New Mexico

Compassion & Choices commended the Santa Fe City Council for voting on a bipartisan resolution in support of medical aid-in-dying legislation in New Mexico (6-2).

The vote makes Santa Fe the second jurisdiction in New Mexico to endorse medical aid in dying, a medical practice which gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to peacefully end unbearable suffering. 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,” said Councilor Romero-Wirth.

“The Council’s vote shows the growing momentum for medical aid in dying legislation in New Mexico,” said Elizabeth Armijo, multi-state campaign & outreach organizer/New Mexico campaign manager for Compassion & Choices. “In 2019, our legislators will have the opportunity once again to pass this vital legislation which 80% 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 9th  jurisdiction in the nation to authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option. Oregon, where medical aid in dying has been authorized for two decades (since 1997), has been joined since then by Washington (2008), Montana (2009), Vermont (2013, California (2015), Colorado (2016), Washington, D.C. (2017) and Hawaiʻi (2018).

Background

In January 2014, New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court issued a landmark decision – 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.

The New Mexico End-of-Life Options Act will be closely modeled after medical aid-in-dying legislation in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Montana and Washington D.C. The Act will provide a compassionate choice for terminally ill people who are suffering from an incurable illness or condition. The legislation will include some of the same important protections that have worked in Oregon for over 20 years.