Armstrong Bill to Allow Medical Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Passes Health Committee

Bill Allows Mentally Capable Adults to Request & Self-Administer Life-ending Medications
Prescribed by Healthcare Provider

After extensive heartfelt and emotional debate, the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Armstrong, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee 4-3 on Monday, moving forward legislation that would allow mentally capable adults with a terminal illness and no hope of recovery to request and be prescribed medications they could take themselves to end their life peacefully.


“The Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act is a compassionate bill that would give mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep, if their suffering becomes unbearable,” Armstrong said. “It is my honor to sponsor this bill on behalf of the late Judge Elizabeth Whitefield and so many other New Mexicans who want—and deserve—a peaceful death on their own terms.”


HB 90, which was carefully drafted with input from experts and community members, allows a healthcare provider to prescribe life-ending medication to a patient with no more than six months to live if a healthcare provider has determined that the patient has a terminal illness and is mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions. The prescription can only be administered by the patient themselves and the prescription can be filled no sooner than 48 hours after it is written. The act contains extensive safeguards against abuse and misuse.


“Just as we want New Mexicans to have compassionate options open to them at the end of their lives, we also want to ensure that every necessary safeguard is in place to support and protect patients and families,” Armstrong said. “


The bill also specifically allows for healthcare providers and facilities to opt out of participating in aid-in-dying. Healthcare providers will never be required to provide life-ending medications to a patient and healthcare facilities need only have a clear policy prohibiting the practice, if they want to opt out.


“This bill is about choices. Choices for patients and choices for healthcare providers,” Armstrong said. “Only patients and healthcare providers who want to participate in aid-in-dying will do so.”


Further, Armstrong said, end-of-life care options are a matter of personal freedom.


“In New Mexico, we value freedom. We believe that New Mexicans should have the freedom to choose the end-of-life options that are right for them,” Armstrong said.  “No one should be forced to suffer as they die.”


HB 90 now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.



About Rep. Armstrong: Debbie, Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, is a long-time health care advocate serving her second term in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Having started her career as a physical therapist, she has worked extensively as a health care administrator, working 10 years with Presbyterian Medical Services in Santa Fe. Prior to serving as Secretary of New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Terms Services Department, she oversaw the department’s Consumer and Elder Rights Division. Debbie is the mother of three adult children. She lives in Albuquerque’s North Valley.  Follow her on Twitter @NMRepArmstrong and on Facebook, and sign up for email and text updates.

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