Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals and Families
Q: What is the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act?
A: An Act that authorizes medical aid in dying, a proven medical practice in which a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live who is a resident of New Mexico may request from their qualified healthcare provider medication that they can choose to self-administer to bring about a peaceful death.
Q: Who is Eligible for Medical Aid in Dying?
A: To be eligible for medical aid in dying under the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act, a person must be:
- An adult
- Terminally ill, with a prognosis of six months or less to live
- Mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions.
In addition, a person must meet the following requirements. They must be:
- A resident of New Mexico
- Acting voluntarily
- Capable of self-administering the aid-in-dying medication.
A New Mexico qualified healthcare provider must confirm eligibility to use the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act, as well as confirm that the person requesting it is making an informed decision and voluntarily requesting the aid-in-dying medication.
In addition to the requirements listed above, steps must be followed in order for a person to qualify for a prescription for aid-in-dying medication. EOLONM worked with our national partner Compassion & Choices to produce this fact sheet which includes the steps for accessing the NM law: /FS-NM-Information-for-State-Residents-FINAL-v2-6.16.2021.pdf
Q: Form: Where Can I Find the Necessary Forms?
A: The required form to access medical aid in dying in New Mexico is called the Request to End My Life in a Peaceful Manner Form.
Q: What happens to the form after I sign it? Does it need to be notarized?
A: The law stipulates that the prescribing provider “enters the form into the individual’s medical record after the form has been completed with all of the required signatures and initials.” The law does NOT state that the form must be notarized.
Q: What Can I Do to Make Sure My Provider Will Support Me if I Ever Want to Access Medical Aid in Dying?
Ask your healthcare providers now whether they will support your end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying. This will encourage your providers to listen to your priorities and become prepared to provide you with the treatment you may want in the future. If your providers are unable or unwilling to support your end-of-life choices, you have the option to change your care to a healthcare team that puts your wishes first.
Q: What if the MAID death is unattended but the individual utilizing MAID is in hospice?A: Hospice agencies have a special relationship with the Office of Medical Examiner that allows them to pronounce death and complete death certificates, without the involvement of OMI investigators, since hospice deaths are expected. This is true even if hospice staff were not present for the death. Families should call hospice and the mortuary to notify them of the death. Hospices also offer a nursing visit for support after a loved one dies and provide ongoing bereavement support for the family.
Q: Who is a Qualified Healthcare Provider?
A: A qualified healthcare provider is defined as:
- a physician licensed pursuant to the Medical Practice Act;
- an osteopathic physician licensed pursuant to the Osteopathic Medicine Act;
- a nurse licensed in advanced practice pursuant to the Nursing Practice Act; or
- a physician assistant licensed pursuant to the Physician Assistant Act or the Osteopathic Medicine Act.
Q: What steps are involved for a person enrolled in hospice to be eligible for medical aid in dying?
A: A patient enrolled in hospice is recognized as already having a terminal diagnosis. If the patient requests and qualifies for medical aid in dying and if the healthcare provider who prescribes MAID medications is a physician, an additional consulting clinician is not required in order to confirm eligibility.
Q: Can a person with an Alzheimer/Dementia diagnosis access medical aid in dying?
A: With regard to whether an Alzheimer or dementia patient is eligible for medical aid in dying, one of the qualifications of the law is that the prescribing health care provider must determine capacity that the individual has capacity and can make and communicate informed health care decisions. This determination is made by the individual’s NM licensed prescribing health care provider and according to professional standards of care and provisions of Section 24-7A-11 NMSA 1978. If an individual is deemed to not have capacity, there are other end of life options to consider such as palliative care, hospice, not starting or stopping treatment, VSED (voluntary stopping eating and drinking) and palliative sedation to name a few.
Click to read about these and other end of life options.
Or to gain a better understanding of how to prepare and plan for the end of life upon receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer or Dementia, please click here.
Q: Mental Health Assessment: Is a referral to a mental health professional to assess decision-making capacity required as part of the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act?
A: No. A mental health referral is only necessary if the prescriber or consulting provider has a question or concern about the individual’s capacity. The Act states that a healthcare provider must determine that the person is terminally ill, can self-administer the medication, and is mentally capable of making an informed decision. If there is any doubt about capacity, the provider must refer the patient for an evaluation to a licensed mental health professional (see FAQ for who is capable of making a mental health assessment). Furthermore, “determination of capacity shall be made only according to professional standards of care and the provisions of The NM Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act (Section 24-7A-11 NMSA 1978)” which presumes an individual has capacity to make their own healthcare decisions.
Q: Mental Health Assessment: Who is capable of completing the mental health assessment? (does it have to be a psychiatrist or can it be a mental health provider who is independently licensed?)
A: If deemed necessary by their prescribing provider, the law provides that a state-licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, master social worker, psychiatric nurse practitioner or professional clinical mental health counselor can complete a mental health assessment.
Q: Do prescribers need to see/assess a patient in person? Or does tele-health work?A: As long as the patient is enrolled in a Medicare certified hospice program and the prescribing physician makes the various findings required by statute, and that provider has also “provided medical care to the patient in accordance with accepted medical standards of care,” there is no requirement that the prescriber do a physical exam of the patient or see the patient in person. If the patient is not enrolled in hospice, at least one of the two physicians must “conduct an appropriate examination,” but even then it does not have to be in person, that decision is left to the discretion of the provider.
Q: Talk to My Provider: How Do I Talk to My Healthcare Provider or Hospice About Medical Aid in Dying?
A: Compassion & Choices has handouts on its website compassionandchoices.org/in-your-state/new-mexico with tips on how to talk to your healthcare provider about medical aid in dying, and how to interview a hospice to make sure that your medical team will support you in your choices.
In addition to asking the questions identified on this handout, consider also asking if the hospices’ medical director will write prescriptions for Medical Aid in Dying. FS-How-to-Interview-a-Hospice-NM_-FINAL-6.4.2021.pdf
Q: EOLONM Support: How does End of Life Options New Mexico help patients and their families access the End-of-Life Options Act?
A: If an individual patient needs assistance with navigating the steps to use the law, we have a group of well-informed volunteers who can walk individuals through the process. The individual patient, family member, or caregiver should send a request and their contact information to email@example.com to begin this type of assistance.
Q: Residency: What makes someone a New Mexico resident?
A: The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act does not specify what constitutes residency or how one must prove residency, only that an adult individual must be a resident of the state. If you are asked to show documentation for residency, other state departments such as the NM Motor Vehicle Dept., suggests the following forms of ID:
- A gas, electric, water, or phone bill that shows your current address.
- A rental property or purchase agreement.
- An auto, home, health insurance agreement or bill.
- A paycheck stub.
- A property tax statement or mortgage documents.