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Aid in Dying Act

In 2021, New Mexico passed the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-life Options Act, which allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live, the option to request, obtain and take medication to die peacefully, if and when they choose. Under the Act, healthcare providers, including CHRISTUS St. Vincent, are not required to participate and may choose to opt out of the Act.

CHRISTUS St. Vincent is committed to providing the best possible care for patients approaching the end-of-life, or actively dying, which includes pain and symptom management. We recognize the rights of patients to treatment, care and services within the organization’s capability, mission and in compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care facilities. All patients regardless of race, creed, sex, national origin, or source of payment for care, have the right to compassionate and respectful care as well as dying with dignity at the time of natural death. We provide palliative and hospice care, and strive to mitigate suffering and address the fear of pain and loss of control that patients may experience at the end of life.

Additionally, this means patients may choose to forgo treatments that “in the patient’s judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or community.” Healthcare in the Catholic tradition cannot honor advance care planning documents or advance directives that reflect the intended purpose of intentionally hastening death or ending life. Therefore, actions to aid the process of dying are not permitted within CHRISTUS St. Vincent (including the hospital, its clinics and actions by its affiliated health care providers). Extraordinary means to sustain life need not be utilized when death appears to be imminent and inevitable.

When a patient is faced with a diagnosis of advanced, life-limiting illness, we inform the individual of CHRISTUS St. Vincent’s treatment options that may include comfort care, palliative care, hospice care and pain control. CHRISTUS St. Vincent honors the choices of patients for end of life care. If a patient requests aid in dying, CHRISTUS St. Vincent will refer the patient accordingly.

If a patient has questions about services beyond what CHRISTUS St. Vincent offers, we encourage and expect them to ask their health care provider directly. CHRISTUS St. Vincent acknowledges the rights of patients to seek aid-in-dying under New Mexico law elsewhere. If a patient declines the treatment options available at CHRISTUS St. Vincent and requests a transfer to a facility outside of our facility, we will transfer the patient in accordance with his or her wishes.