Medical Aid in Dying Bill 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 7-4 on Friday, moving forward legislation that would allow mentally capable adults with a terminal illness and less than six months to live 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 47 is cosponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil and carried in the Senate by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Sen. Bill O’Neill.

The bill, 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.”

Among those testifying before the committee in support of the bill on Friday was Erin Armstrong, Rep. Armstrong’s daughter who has been living with cancer since she was a teenager. In recent years the cancer has come back requiring additional care and making end-of-life decisions very personal for Rep. Armstrong and her family.

“When the time comes, everyone deserves to make the decisions that are right for them to ensure a peaceful death,” Armstrong said. “While this issue is very difficult to talk about, it is even more difficult to live it.”

HB 47 now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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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 and became a grandmother last year. 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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published this page in Latest News 2021-01-29 12:38:49 -0700

Paid for by Debbie Armstrong for New Mexico, Jill Riester, Treasurer

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