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In June 2021, the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act went into effect authorizing medical aid in dying (MAID) in New Mexico. On this second anniversary it seems timely to provide a brief update about how the law is being implemented and, more broadly, how more New Mexicans are learning about their right to self-determination, the importance of advance care planning and the range of end-of-life options, including MAID.
Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill person with less than six months to live the opportunity to request a prescription for medications that will peacefully end their life, if and when they choose. In addition to the six-month prognosis, eligibility includes being at least 18, a New Mexico resident, having the capacity/ability to make an informed health care decision, and being able to self-administer the medications.
Our New Mexico law is considered by many a model of a balanced approach that improves access for those who qualify.
Once the law was enacted, advocates chose to organize further and a new nonprofit organization, End of Life Options New Mexico (ELONM), was launched. Its mission is to provide education and support for all end-of-life options and to assist the implementation of MAID.
Two years later, ELONM’s 60-plus volunteers are actively accomplishing both the public and clinical outreach/education and individual support services to clients who request it. In 2022, ELONM participated in 25 tabling events, provided 64 talks and presentations and had more than 4,200 individual contacts. ELONM volunteers responded to more than 200 requests for personal support and assistance through our website, endoflifeoptionsnm.org, or our professionally staffed call-in line, 505-393-1321.
In regard to medical aid in dying, according to our best count, MAID has been utilized more than 330 times by qualified patients who are suffering and wish to hasten their death. In almost all cases, they are enrolled in hospice and their prescribing clinician, hospice staff and/or one of our ELONM volunteers are at the bedside, supporting the family and loved ones.
We are now focusing our education and outreach efforts statewide to assist all people to understand their options and access the end-of-life care they choose, including palliative care and hospice.
More New Mexicans with serious medical conditions have greater peace of mind knowing that if things are difficult, they and their families can receive assistance/support from caring agencies and clinicians who will honor their choices.
No one should have to die alone, or suffer, or be fearful at the end. At ELONM we believe in “Quality of Life at the End of Life.”
May it be so.
Barak Wolff, Chair
End of Life Options New Mexico