Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New Mexico poised to legalize assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Associated Press reported that New Mexico's Senate passed an amended version of assisted suicide Bill HB 47 by a vote of 24 to 17. HB 47 had passed in the House, without amendments, by a vote of 39 to 27. The bill will go back to the House for a vote on the Senate amendments.

Deborah Armstrong (D) who sponsored HB 47 also sponsored the two previous assisted suicide bills.

Senator Joseph Cervantes sponsored amendments to HB 47 that passed. The amendments:
  1. Deleted Section 7 which required falsification of the death certificate.
  2. Deleted Section 8 which allowed life insurance or annuities to be collected.
  3. Eliminated civil immunity from Section 9 for prescribers of lethal drugs.
  4. Eliminated a provision which opened health care facilities to liability if they prohibit employees from participating in assisted suicides.
I was frustrated when presenting to the New Mexico legislative committee on HB-47. The "expert" witnesses claimed that HB 47 is one of the tightest assisted suicide bills anywhere. In reality HB 47 is the widest assisted suicide bill in America.
All current assisted suicide laws require physicians to approve and prescribe lethal drugs. HB 47 allows non-physicians defined as "health care providers" which includes physicians, or licensed physician assistants, or osteopathic physicians, or nurses registered in advanced practice to approve or prescribe lethal drugs.

All current assisted suicide laws require a psychologist or psychiatrist to counsel a person, when a "health care provider" questions the ability of a person to consent. HB 47 defines counselors as: state-licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, master social worker, psychiatric nurse practitioner or professional clinical mental health counselor.

Unlike existing assisted suicide legislation, HB 47 does not require a 15 day waiting period but only requires a 48 hour waiting period that can be waived if the health care provider believes that the person may be imminently dying. Therefore HB 47 technically allows a same day death. A person could request assisted suicide on a "bad day" and die the same day. Studies prove that the “will to live” fluctuates.

HB 47 Section 3 (G) waives the requirement that a person's condition be confirmed by a second health care provider if the person requesting assisted suicide is enrolled in a hospice program. This is the only assisted suicide bill that waives the requirement that a second health care provider assess the requester.
They expert witnesses also claimed that HB 47 had iron clad conscience protections for health care providers. The reality is that HB 47 trampled on conscience rights.
HB 47 states that health care providers who are unwilling to carry out a request for assisted suicide shall inform the individual and refer the individual to a health care provider who is able and willing to carry out the individual's request or to another individual or entity to assist the requesting individual in seeking medical aid in dying.

Therefore a conscientious objector must participate in the act by referring the patient for assisted suicide to a health care provider who is willing to prescribe lethal drugs.
In 2019 Deborah Armstrong, sponsored assisted suicide bill, HB 90, which I called the most extreme assisted suicide bill in America. Among other concerns, HB 90 allowed assisted suicide for psychiatric conditions, to be done to someone with an undefined "terminal prognosis," to be done by nurses and physician assistants, and it even allowed it to be approved via telemedicine.

The amended bill will likely pass in the House. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has stated that she will sign the bill into law.

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