A loss for life in New Mexico
Assisted suicide makes headway in the United States
New Mexico became the ninth U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide on Thursday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act, making it legal for patients with less than half a year to live to request life-ending drugs. The legislation, which takes effect on June 18, requires the non-hospice patients to get approval from two licensed medical providers. To prevent assisted suicide tourism to the state, the bill deviates from previous versions by limiting the procedure to New Mexico residents. But pro-lifers still see the bill’s dangers.
“It’s a really radical bill,” said Ethel Maharg, the executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, comparing it to similar legislation in other states. “Ours is probably the most radical that there is.”
Even Oregon, which became the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1997, has a 15-day waiting period for patients who want to end their lives. But New Mexico will only require 48 hours—and physicians may waive that requirement in certain cases.
The legislation also provides little protection for doctors who don’t want to participate in suicides. Although it says providers who object “for reasons of conscience” won’t be required to prescribe the drugs, it still instructs them to refer patients to someone else who will. This makes objecting physicians culpable in the deaths.
Pro-lifers in New Mexico have been fighting the legalization of assisted suicide for at least two decades. The state legislature considered similar bills as early as 1995, and a state judge in 2014 ruled physician-assisted death is a right protected by the state Constitution. An appeals court and later the state Supreme Court overruled the decision, calling the issue a matter for the legislative branch to decide. The same bill failed in 2019 but finally had enough votes to pass this year after progressive legislators won control of the legislature in the November.
Maharg said the bill’s passage wasn’t a surprise to her, adding that pro-lifers in New Mexico plan to keep fighting. “It further erodes the value of life,” she said. “When you crack that door open, you leave it open for a multitude of things to transpire.”
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