New Mexico on Tuesday walked back a portion of its assisted suicide law that denied conscience protections for physicians who object to the practice.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill on Tuesday allowing doctors with ethical or religious objections to refuse to facilitate an assisted suicide, an action that comes just a few months after a Christian doctor and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the state over its law in December. The Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act, which was passed in 2021 to legalize assisted suicide throughout the state, compelled doctors to provide patients with information and referrals to other doctors who would help them end their life, irrespective of personal objections.
Doctors who refused participation were left vulnerable to criminal and civil penalties, including the potential loss of their medical license, the lawsuit said.
“As Christian health care professionals, it is our aim to serve every patient with excellence and compassion, as image-bearers of God,” said Dr. Jeffrey Barrows, senior vice president of bioethics and public policy for CMDA, in a statement. “We strive to perform our work according to the dictates of our faith and professional ethics, including the belief that every life is precious. We’re grateful New Mexico quickly responded to our lawsuit by enacting protections for conscientious physicians.”
After ADF attorneys sued NM for forcing doctors to facilitate physician-assisted suicide, the state rushed to enact a law that allows doctors to decline participation in the procedure.
Today, ADF attorneys filed a stipulated dismissal to dismiss our lawsuit against the state.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) April 5, 2023
ADF filed a stipulation to dismiss the lawsuit on Wednesday following the governor’s signing of the new bill. (RELATED: ‘Shuffling Vulnerable People Through The System’: First Out-Of-State Patients Visit Oregon Seeking Assisted Suicide)
“We commend the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Lujan Grisham for enacting this critical law to protect health care professionals who object to assisted suicide for reasons of conscience or faith,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Mark Lippelmann in a statement. “Dr. Lacy and the thousands of other Christian medical professionals we represent believe every life is sacred and full of inherent value, and that assisted suicide ends an innocent human life without justification. The government should never force doctors to surrender their religious, moral, and ethical convictions.”
Democratic state Sen. Joe Cervantes, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the law “simply acknowledges and affirms the right of individuals to object on conscientious reason,” according to the Los Alamos Daily Post.
Over 200 New Mexico citizens have chosen to end their lives through assisted suicide since it was legalized in 2021, which End of Life Options New Mexico Chair Barak Wolff called a “remarkable accomplishment given our small population and a new law,” according to the 2022 Annual End of Life Options report.
ADF is currently litigating a similar case in California, Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta, which seeks to protect doctors from forced participation in assisted suicide.
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