SANTA FE — Legislation that would have allowed terminally ill New Mexico adults to seek a doctor’s help in ending their lives failed tonight on the Senate floor.
The End of Life Options Act was defeated on a 20-22 vote, with seven Senate Democrats voting with most of the chamber’s Republican members to thwart the bill.
Several senators expressed concern the legislation, Senate Bill 252, could open the door to potentially thorny legal issues and undue influence being exerted on ailing individuals.
“This is dangerous,” said Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho. “Doctors make mistakes every day.”
The issue has emerged as one of the most emotional issues facing lawmakers during this year’s 60-day session, with lawmakers hearing dozens of stories from New Mexicans about relatives who died after prolonged suffering.
Backers say the legislation is only intended to provide options — not requirements — for those with terminal illnesses.
“The problem with being ill on this level is the lack of control over your own life,” said Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque.
This year’s Roundhouse debate was prompted by a state Supreme Court ruling last year that said terminally ill patients don’t have a right to a physician’s help in dying under the law as it stands now.
The bill would allow competent, terminally ill adult patients to obtain prescriptions from doctors for drugs the patients would have to self-administer. Death certificates for patients opting to use the program would list their underlying illness as the cause of death, not the prescribed medication.
Even if the measure had passed, it likely would have faced long odds in the House, as a similar measure has been stalled for several weeks in the House Judiciary Committee.