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END OF LIFE OPTIONS NEW MEXICO

A look at End of Life Options law after first year

Posted

More than 100 terminally ill patients in New Mexico used the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act to use medical assistance in dying in the past year, End of Life Options New Mexico (EOLONM) Board Secretary-Treasurer MaryKay Brady of Las Cruces said.

By creating a law allowing for an end-of-life option, Brady said New Mexico broke new ground in these five ways:

  • “It is the most progressive and most accessible MAID (medical assistance in dying) law in the country.
  • “There is only one waiting period of 48 hours between the time a script (request for a medication-to-end-my-life-in-a-peaceful-manner form) is written and the time it can be filled.
  • “This waiting period can be waived if the prescribing clinician judges the patient will die during that 48-hour period.
  • “Only one ‘ask’ (request for medical aid in dying) is required.
  • “Hospice enrollment serves as the (second) consulting opinion” about a patient’s end-of-life decision.
  • “Both nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants can prescribe” medical-aid-in-dying medication.
  • “90 percent of New Mexico aid-in-dying deaths had clinicians at the bedside, with the explicit participation of hospices.”

Like some other states, “New Mexico has an on-the-ground nonprofit (EOLONM) whose volunteers can, and do, educate clients and connect them to willing providers,” Brady said.

The act was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham June 18, 2021. In February 2021, it passed the New Mexico House of Representatives 39-27 and the state Senate 24-17.

New Mexico is one of 10 states plus Washington, D.C., that have enacted medical-aid-in-dying laws. The other states are California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

The New Mexico law defines medical aid in dying as “the medical practice wherein a health care provider prescribes medication to a qualified individual who may self-administer that medication to end that individual's life in accordance with the provisions of the act.”

Under the act, a healthcare provider “may provide a prescription for medical aid in dying medication” to someone who has the capacity to make a decision about ending his or her life, has a terminal illness (as determined by a doctor), has voluntarily made the request for medical aid in dying and has the ability to self-administer the medication.

The patient’s request form must be signed by two witnesses, at least one of whom is not a family member of the patient or associated with a healthcare facility connected to the patient’s care. Neither witness can be the patient’s healthcare provider.

“It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful. It’s a choice,” Brady said after the act was passed in 2021. “No one wants to talk about death and dying, but it’s going to happen.”

Brady said the support of Compassion and Choices and Death with Dignity have been vital to the success of EOLONM. Compassion and Choices is “the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit working to improve care, expand options and empower everyone to chart their end-of-life journey,” according to https://compassionandchoices.org/. Also a nonprofit, Death with Dignity is “a national leader in end-of-life advocacy and policy reform,” according to https://deathwithdignity.org/.

Brady is a retired banker who moved to Las Cruces from Deming in 2016. Her mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died in 1992. Her husband, who had “multiple health issues,” died in 2008.

For mor information, contact Brady at jmranch@ymail.com.

 Visit https://endoflifeoptionsnm.org/.

End of Life Options New Mexico