The US state of New Mexico may become the next jurisdiction to pass assisted suicide legislation, with a House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee voting 4-3 on Monday to endorse an ‘assisted dying’ bill. The bill has been referred to a judiciary committee for further consideration.
Medically assisted suicide is legal in seven states and Washington, D.C. More than a dozen states are expected to consider this year legislation that allows the terminally ill to end their lives.
The New Mexico bill has been described by some as the most radical in the world. Provisions that set it apart from legislation in other US states include a shorter, two-day waiting period between the time a prescription for life-ending drugs is authorized and when it is made available to a patient. The New Mexico bill would add not only physicians but also physician assistants and nurse practitioners to the list of medical professionals who can prescribe life-ending medication.
“I’ve worked with people who are terminally ill. I have worked in hospice, been the caregiver at the bedside of family and friends”, said Deborah Armstrong, a Democrat representative who is sponsoring the bill “It’s a very personal issue for me”.
Republican representative Gregg Schmedes, a surgeon from Albuquerque who voted against the bill, questioned the degree to which doctors can determine with certainty that any patient is going to die. He also raised objections to a "conscience clause" in the bill that allows doctors to decline to participate in medically assisted suicide under all circumstances — but must refer the patient to another doctor.
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