"'Foreseeable future' is not defined," Schadenberg noted. "So it's wide open...basically you can have your interview by telemedicine, and die two days later because your terminal condition that you supposedly have might cause your death in the 'foreseeable future.'"
The bill also removes conscience protections, he said, because although doctors are not required to prescribe the lethal medication, they are mandated to refer the patient to a medical professional who will.
"So if you think it's wrong to prescribe lethal drugs for a patient, knowing that they're going to die by assisted suicide, then it must be equally wrong for you to send them to a doctor who's willing to do that," Schadenberg said.
In addition, the bill does not clearly define whether residents of states other than New Mexico might be allowed to avail themselves of assisted suicide. It was reported in some publications that the bill lacks a residency requirement completely, meaning patients coming from other states to seek the procedure, so-called "suicide tourism," could become a reality.
Most assisted suicide laws, such as Oregon's, Schadenberg clarified, explicitly state that the patient must be a resident of the state in order to qualify for the procedure.
The New Mexico bill, however, only has an indirect residency requirement under the definition of the word "adult," which is defined as a resident of the state. But the word "adult" is only mentioned once in the bill, under the proposed form that must be signed to be approved for assisted suicide, he said.
"But even under the wording of this bill, it still seems a very weak way of defining a resident. It's very awkward."
Schadenberg said some advocates of assisted suicide are calling for a complete elimination of waiting periods for the procedure.
"We're talking about life and death," he said. "Obviously you could be depressed today, and the purpose of the waiting period is not to be onerous and force suffering people to have to live 14 more days. It's that you might be depressed, and the way to ensure [assisted suicide] is your real will is to create a waiting period. You might be feeling better in two weeks."
Schadenberg said about 20 states introduced assisted suicide bills in 2018, but only one state actually passed the measure.
"This is not what you'd call an inevitability," he said. "The opposition to assisted suicide has been very successful, but the sad reality is that it only takes one state and things look bad...New Mexico I'm very concerned about. There's no question about it."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Rangel echoed Schadenberg's consternation at the bill's current language, but reiterated that as Catholics the best approach to terminal illness is compassion.
"We align ourselves with our Lord's pain and suffering," Rangel reflected. "I have a priest friend who has [Multiple Sclerosis,] and when he's feeling the most pain, that's when he offers it up for other people's intentions. I thought that was so powerful...We truly are compassionate for those who are suffering."
He said his own daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, resulting in the loss of part of her brain which has left her cognitively impaired.
"Did she lose some things because of the injury? Absolutely," he said. "But at the same time, [we gained] so many other blessings. So we look for the blessings in everything in life...she loves people, people respond to her, and so if you'd ask me, 'Iis that quality of life?' I would say absolutely."
Assisted suicide has been illegal in New Mexico since the 1960s, but doctors have been protected from liability for removing life support from terminally ill patients since 1978.
The New Mexico Supreme Court previously ruled in June 2016 that assisted suicide was not a "fundamental or important right" under the state constitution, after a woman with terminal cancer expressed her wish for "a more peaceful death." At that time the New Mexico Supreme Court suggested a "robust debate in the legislative and the executive branches of government" to determine if the law needed to be changed.