Mental illness should never be a death sentence

National Newswatch

Margaret Eaton

Anyone living with mental illness knows it can absolutely be grievous and even unbearable. However, what sets mental illness apart from all other types of suffering is that there always remains the hope of recovery. That’s why the Senate’s amendment to C-7, the assisted dying bill, is so concerning.

People with a mental health problem or illness need assistance to live and thrive, not hasten death. . . [Full text]

Historic abortion ban repeal one signature away from becoming law after it passes House

The NM Political Report

Susan Dunlap

The bill that would repeal a state statute that criminalizes abortion care in New Mexico is now headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk after the House of Representatives passed it on a 40 to 30 vote.

This is a priority bill for Lujan Grisham and she has indicated that she would sign it into law. 

The House of Representatives took up SB 10 instead of HB 7, which are mirror bills. SB 10 already passed the state Senate by a vote of 25 to 17 on February 12, and was amended to clarify the bill’s title. Each chamber must pass identical legislation before it can be sent to the governor.

Just as during the Senate floor debate, Republicans in the House attempted to amend the bill and argued for hours over keeping the section of the law that is considered by some healthcare workers as a refusal clause. But the New Mexico Medical Society and other physician groups support the law’s full repeal and the lead sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, a Democrat from Mesilla, argued that there are already provisions in place to protect healthcare workers who object to providing care. . . [Full Text]

Portuguese assisted suicide/euthanasia law and freedom of conscience

Sean Murphy*

The Portuguese parliament passed Decree No. 109/XIV on 29 January, 2021, legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. It has been referred by the President of Portugal for a review by Portugal’s Constitutional Court.

The law permits physicians and nurses to assist in suicide or provide euthanasia for eligible patients.  Eligible patients are adult nationals or legal residents of Portugal who experience intolerable suffering as a result of an extremely severe and permanent injury or incurable terminal illness.  Eligible patients must also demonstrate a serious, voluntary, informed, continuing and reiterated decision to seek euthanasia/assisted suicide.  Physicians who are satisfied that a patient is eligible must obtain the approval of  the Committee for the Verification and Evaluation of Clinical Procedures for Advancing Death (CVA) before providing the procedure.

The law includes a protection of conscience provision.  Any health professional may decline to “practise or assist in the act of antecipação da morte de um doente“, which, literally translated, means the act of “anticipating the death of a patient.”  However, from the context it appears that this is more correctly translated as “advancing the death of a patient.”  To assist in “advancing the death of a patient” is broad enough to encompass diagnosis, evaluation and facilitation by referral or other means.

An objection can be based upon clinical, ethical or other grounds.  An objecting professional must advise a patient of the objection and reasons for it within 24 hours, presumably within 24 hours of a request from the patient.  Objectors must also give written notice to the person in charge of the health establishment where they work and to their professional orders.  Such an objection is permanently and universally valid and “does not need to be justified” (e não carece de fundamentação).  This appears to mean that objectors are not required to demonstrate that their clinical, ethical or other reasons for refusing to participate are correct.

The law is not clear about the freedom of health care facilities to refuse to be involved with euthanasia and assisted suicide or to prohibit the procedures on their premises. Article 12.1 states that it is up to the patient to determine the location for the procedure (“A escolha do local para a prática da morte medicamente assistida cabe ao doente.”). However, nothing in the law requires a facility to comply with a patient’s choice. The rest of Article 12 simply describes places where the services can be provided.

Lack of clarity on this point is likely to cause problems, especially if Portuguese euthanasia/assisted suicide advocates are as aggressive as those in Canada. See, for example:

Conservative groups lament reintroduction of ‘conscience-crushing,’ ‘Orwellian’ Equality Act

Christian Post

Ryan Foley

The reintroduction of the wide-reaching Equality Act, billed as a necessary measure to enshrine protections for the LGBT community into federal civil rights law, was announced Thursday, much to the chagrin of some conservatives and Christian groups.

Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., announced the bill’s introduction in the United States Senate while Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., announced the introduction of the bill in the House of Representatives. According to a press release from Merkley’s office, “the Senate bill will be formally introduced next week when the Senate floor re-opens for bill introductions.” . . . [Full text]

House passes aid-in-dying legislation

Albuquerque Journal

Dan McKay

SANTA FE — For a few hours Friday night, New Mexico legislators shared stories about watching their loved ones die.Her daughter, Erin, now faces an inoperable brain tumor.

In a debate on the House floor, Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque walked her colleagues through the final days of life of her father in law and, later, a close friend. . .

The tearful debate culminated in 39-27 vote to endorse a proposal that would allow terminally ill patients to seek a doctor’s help to end their life — the first time a medical aid-in-dying bill has passed a chamber of the state Legislature. The legislation, House Bill 47, now heads to the Senate. . . [Full text]