About the New Mexico End-of-Life Options Act

The highlights of the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act

Strict Qualifications

To take advantage of medical aid in dying, a person must be an adult, terminally ill, mentally capable of making an informed decision and must be a New Mexico resident. In addition, the person must be able to self-administer the medication for a peaceful death.

Robust Protections

A patient initiates the process by asking a health care provider to prescribe medication that may be self-administered to bring about a peaceful death. That health care provider must determine that the person is terminally ill and is mentally capable of making an informed decision. If there is any doubt, the provider must refer the patient for an evaluation to a licensed mental health professional. The process may proceed only if that professional determines and documents that the patient has capacity and is mentally capable of making an informed decision.
New Mexico Legislature Crest

On April 8, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act into law which makes medical aid in dying available to the terminally ill adults in New Mexico

Informed Decision-Making

The health care provider must ensure that the person is making the request voluntarily and explain all anticipated outcomes, associated risks and alternatives, including hospice and palliative care.

Peace of Mind

Data from Oregon shows that about one third of the people who obtain the prescription for medical aid in dying never choose to self-administer it. Some die before they feel a need to use it. For others, be they terminal or seriously ill, just knowing that they have the means to end their suffering, if it becomes unbearable, provides peace of mind and improves their quality of life.

Ensuring Access

The Act has a waiting period of 48 hours between the writing of the prescription and filling of the prescription to ensure timely access for critically ill and suffering patients. A health care provider is defined as an MD, DO, Advanced Practice Nurse or Physician Assistant to help ensure access in communities throughout the state.

Protects Doctors, Nurses, and Loved Ones

The Act is explicit that medical aid in dying is not “suicide.” Physicians, nurses and loved ones who may be present toward the end are protected against prosecution for “assisting suicide.” Further, good faith compliance with the law may not be construed as unprofessional conduct or considered neglect. Medical aid in dying is entirely voluntary for patients, health care providers, and pharmacists. No one is obligated to participate.

Compassion for the Suffering

As in other states, the law can be expected to be used by only a small percentage of dying patients (<1/2 of 1%) – but for those who are suffering unbearably at the end of life, it provides a measure of control and immeasurable peace. It is a matter of basic human rights. Health care providers who choose to participate are acting ethically and are fulfilling the highest obligations of their calling—to relieve suffering.
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Overview: About the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act

Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live, the option to request, obtain and self-administer medication to die peacefully, if and when they choose. Listed below are some of the highlights, eligibility criteria, and key principles of the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act (EWEOLOA).