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New Mexico needs end-of-life care options now

Lawmakers in my home state are currently considering the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act, House Bill 47, and I want to share my voice. I’ve been working on behalf of terminally ill Hispanics who are impacted by significant health care disparities and have fought for many years to improve access to end-of-life care including the option to die peacefully, without unnecessary pain.

I advocate for this issue because I watched my own mother suffer in agony as she died from breast cancer. I know if I had a terminal illness, it would be important to me to at least have the option.

Many of us work hard every day to provide equitable access to quality health care for our communities, but we need to also work to ensure quality end-of-life care for people who are suffering from a terminal illness.

I’m urging legislators to consider passing HB 47. This compassionate bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to get a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully if their suffering becomes intolerable. I was heartbroken when the Legislature did not pass the bill during the 2019 legislative session. I’m heartbroken today because many of the advocates who worked in support of it are not here with us today.

Terminally ill New Mexicans do not have time to wait for another legislative session. They are suffering, and they are dying, in pain, now. This issue is urgent for them. I strongly believe every New Mexican should be able to make end-of-life care decisions that are right for them and their families, including the option to request medical aid in dying.

I understand that some legislators may decide not to use this option if they become terminally ill. However, I urge them to honor the equally valid beliefs of other dying people who want this option – and those who have watched loved ones suffer needlessly painful deaths who wished they had this option, like myself.

Although I am not able to visit with lawmakers and rally with dying New Mexicans right now because of the pandemic, I urge you to stand with the majority of New Mexicans to pass HB 47. Join me to eradicate these health care disparities so all Americans have equal access to the full range of end-of-life care options. Let’s work together and hear the voices of terminally ill New Mexicans.

Si Se Puede. Yes We Can!

Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. She was recently named one of USA Today’s ‘Women of the Century.’


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