Would New Mexico’s Assisted Suicide Proposal Hurt Minorities?

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Democrats in New Mexico are pushing legislation that would allow physicians to help their terminally-ill patients end their own lives.

This past June, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against a case that would deem physician-assisted suicide a constitutional right. The new proposal challenges this ruling and would ensure that physicians who prescribe life-ending drugs to their patients do not face any legal consequences.

The ACLU, which opposed the practice of physician-assisted suicide at its conception in the 1960s, now holds that physician-assisted suicide is in fact a constitutional right, and voiced their outrage for the court’s ruling last June.

So, what’s the case against physician-assisted suicide? Among the most basic arguments is the simple fact that some terminally ill individuals do get better, especially with the medical advances being made every day. Additionally, it is not irrational to say that doctors make mistakes and that patients are diagnosed with terminally ill diseases only to find out later that their condition can be treated. A more complex but equally valid argument is that physician-assisted suicide makes suicide more socially acceptable, raising general suicide rates.

The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops (NMCCB), however, makes a further compelling argument for why assisted suicide targets minority groups. Minority groups make up the majority of New Mexico’s population, with a minority population approximately 23 percent higher than that of US average, according to a 2014 report. According to NMCCB Executive Director Allen Sanchez, low-income minorities would be coached and guilted into ending their lives, rather than burdening their families with expensive medical treatments. The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund backs Sanchez’s claim, adding that it would not only hurt minorities, but also the disabled. Alternatively, according to Sanchez, New Mexico should turn its focus to making healthcare more affordable and improving hospice care. This would in turn benefit minorities and make physician-assisted suicide a much less appealing choice.

A spokesperson for Republican Governor Susana Martinez says that the governor will likely oppose the proposal, given her opposition to similar legislation.


Diana Valentine

Diana Valentine works for the American Principles Project.