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Bill to allow providers to opt out of assisted dying passes Senate

Senator Joseph Cervantes explained the bill
Alice Fordham
NM Legis livestream
Senator Joseph Cervantes explained the bill

The Senate Thursday passed a bill that would allow health care providers to refuse, as a matter of conscience, to provide information about assisted dying for terminally ill patients.

Senate Bill 471 would make a change to the legislation known as the End-of-Life Options Act, passed in 2021, that allows terminally ill patients to end their lives using medication.

Bill sponsor Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana), explained new language that would allow doctors and other providers who objected to assisted dying to refuse to provide information about medical aid in dying and to refuse to make a referral to someone who would

"This is simply an acknowledgement of conscience and the right to exercise that conscience in connection with the procedures for the end of life act that we adopted," he said.

In debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Cervantes said that the new wording and a recent lawsuit were interrelated. That lawsuit, seeking to declare parts of the law unconstitutional, was brought last year by a New Mexican doctor and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

Jeffrey Barrows from that organization spoke to KUNM's Daniel Montaño about the lawsuit this week.

"New Mexico is now forcing our members who are conscientious to inform their patients of the availability of assisted suicide, something they view as evil," he said.

Sen. Cervantes said he believed the change in wording would satisfy the concerns outlined in the lawsuit. The bill passed unanimously and now heads to the House, where there is also a similar bill.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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  • Medical aid in dying has been legal in New Mexico since 2021. Since then, experts estimate more than 200 terminally ill New Mexicans have ended their lives. First, they waited the mandatory 48 hours before filling a prescription, then they drank a prescribed medication, and soon after drifted off to sleep before their bodies shut down. The law hasn’t been without controversy and certainly wasn’t adopted without debate that is still ongoing in the Roundhouse and the court house. Some doctors’ groups and politicians are arguing for offering ethical exemptions for practitioners with moral objections.