Assisted suicide bill advances from committee amid ugly spat between Sen. Ivey-Soto, Pro Tem Stewart

On Sunday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana) met to consider multiple proposals, chief among them H.B. 47, which is a rabidly anti-life assisted suicide via lethal drugs bill brought forth by Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D-Bernalillo) and Sen. Liz Stefanics (D-Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance, and Valencia). 

The bill would legalize doctors to prescribe a “cocktail” of lethal drugs to patients suffering from terminal illnesses, which will save insurance companies money. The bill is opposed by the American Medical Association’s guide of ethics, the Navajo Nation, multiple Catholic organizations, and disability rights groups. 

During the committee, the “expert witnesses,” law professor Robert Schwartz and physician Steven Kanig could not even list the drugs that would be prescribed to end an individual’s life and admitted that there is no set “cocktail” that is used. Schwartz claimed the concoction of harmful drugs “has been refined over the years” and that “these drugs do change.”

Chairman Cervantes asked multiple questions regarding the legality of the bill, such as its clause listing that a physician would be compelled to list the patient’s underlying condition as their cause of death instead of the lethal drugs. Another concern regarded proof that the patient was not being coerced into the decision, as well as the effectiveness of these drugs to end the patient’s life. He also asked about redundancies in the bill, such as the term “a peaceful death,” referring to the ending of the patient’s life. He said, “The issue here is not to produce that, but rather to produce death. And that really is straightforward.” 

No other senator, Republican, or Democrat asked the bill sponsors or their expert witnesses about the bill, other than Sen. Katy Duhigg (D-Bernalillo and Sandoval) arguing with the Chairman over exempting doctors from liability. 

During the consideration of a previous bill in the committee, H.B. 129, Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart (D-Bernalillo), and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) had a spat over amendments to the bill, with Stewart claiming she was not sent amendments in advance. 

Later, during consideration of the anti-life H.B. 47, Ivey-Soto had informed the committee that he had been asked by leadership not to exercise his “senatorial duties” on any House bills and that he would no longer be hearing House bills in his Senate Rules Committee.

He said, “I just wanted to let everybody know that since I have been asked by leadership not to exercise my senatorial duties on any House bills, I will not be participating in the consideration of any House bills. I am terribly sorry for this. We will also no longer, in my committee, be considering any House bills at this time for the foreseeable future. Thank you very much, and I wish everyone well on this bill and I’m very sorry not to be participating in the consideration of this bill because I find it to be incredible for us to be doing in our work in the Legislature.” 

In prior committee hearings in his Rules Committee, Sen Ivey-Soto has gotten into spats with Sen. Mimi Stewart. She has been critical of his inclination to amend bills to not create problems later on. In contrast, she has been focused on ramming through as much radical legislation despite any ramifications in the future. 

Before the final vote on H.B. 47, Republicans on the committee made a motion to table it, with it dying on a vote of 3-5. The anti-life bill ultimately passed through the committee 5-3 despite many indications of opposition from Chairman Cervantes, with him voting to advance the bill. Cervantes said he intends to offer amendments to the bill on the Senate floor, the proposal’s next stop before the Governor’s desk.

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