Aid in Dying Laws in the United States

The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act authorizes Medical Aid in Dying in New Mexico

Across the world, discussions around death and how we die are becoming more commonplace and the options that are available at the end of life are also increasing. One option that is becoming more available in the United States is medical aid in dying.
Medical aid in dying allows a mentally competent adult with a terminal illness and prognosis of six months or less to live, to request a prescription from a qualified healthcare provider for life-ending medication. The patient can choose whether to use the medication to end his or her life.

Time-tested

With almost 25 years of evidence from Oregon alone and another 20 years of combined evidence in the other authorized jurisdictions, this option is now a trusted and time-tested medical practice. The fundamental core safeguards embedded in medical aid-in-dying laws ensure that all terminally ill individuals pursuing the option are protected from coercion and abuse. In all the combined years of experience, not a single case of abuse or coercion nor any criminal or disciplinary charges have been filed. Not one.

Improved care

The laws that authorize this compassionate option have proven not only to protect patients, but to improve care across the end-of-life spectrum. Medical aid in dying protects patients, affords dying people autonomy and compassion during the most difficult time, improves end-of-life care, and costs states almost nothing to implement, except for the minimal costs associated with collecting data and producing the annual statistical reports.

Years of advocacy

Despite the stellar track record, passing medical aid in dying legislation is a heavy lift. It takes years of community outreach and education, strong, well-informed and determined legislative sponsors, and a determined group of advocates and community supporters to see the legislation through to passage.

There are now eleven (11) jurisdictions that have authorized the use of medical aid in dying, including:

  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Montana
  • Vermont
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Washington D.C.
  • Hawai’i
  • New Jersey
  • Maine, and now,
  • New Mexico

Since the first Oregon law was passed by ballot initiative in 1994 and actually went into effect in the fall of 1997, we’ve learned a lot. Both from Oregon and the experiences of the other authorized states, which now constitute more than 40 years of combined experience.

 With the authorization of medical aid in dying in New Mexico, more than 22% of the U.S. population now have access to this compassionate option.

Passing the New Mexico Legislation

1995 Aid in dying Bill
SB 446, Aid in dying bill

 Sponsor Sen. Liz Stefanics; 

Legislation died in committee

2009 Death With Dignity Act
HB 814, Death With Dignity Act

Sponsored by Rep. Karen E. Giannini; 

Legislation died in committee

2017 NM Mexico End of Life Option Act
SB 252/HB 171, NM Mexico End-of-Life Option Act

Sponsors: Sen. Liz Stefanics, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, Rep. Bill McCamley; 

Legislation died by a vote of 20-22 on the Senate floor

2019 The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act
SB 153/HB 90, The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act
Judge Elizabeth Whitefield

Sponsors: Rep. Debbie Armstrong, Sen. Liz Stefanics; 

Legislation died in committee. 

Photo of Judge Elizabeth Whitefield, shown left.

2021 The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act
HB 47/SB 308, The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act

Sponsors: Rep. Debbie Armstrong, Sen. Liz Stefanics, Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil; Rep. Patrica Roybal Caballero, Sen. Bill O’Neill, Sen. Carrie Hamblen

  • Legislation Passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on Jan. 29, 2021 by a vote of 7-4.
  • Passed the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13, 2021 by a vote of 7-3
  • Passed the NM House of Representatives floor on Feb. 19 2021 by a vote of 39- 27
  • Passed the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee on March 1, 2021 by a vote of 5-3
  • Passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 14, 2021 by a vote of 5-3
  • Passed on the NM Senate floor on March 15, 2021 by a vote of 24-17
  • Concurred by the NM House of Representatives on March 16, 2021 by a vote of 46 – 20.
  • Signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 8, 2021.
  • Officially went into effect on June 18, 2021.