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Suicide is fundamentally different from aid in dying

The New Mexico Psychological Association (NMPA) is committed to providing high quality mental health care to all New Mexicans. In doing so, members often provide services to those who are contemplating suicide, and to family members and friends of those who have committed suicide. Its members have also provided services to competent adults who are terminally ill and facing imminent death, and to their friends and family members. Some of these terminally ill patients are also considering asking their physicians for Aid in Dying (AID) if their suffering during the dying process becomes too difficult to bear, and some of these patients have been referred to psychologists for counseling by the physicians from whom they sought AID. The NMPA recognizes that if a psychologist is required to treat a patient considering AID like a patient considering suicide, that psychologist cannot possibly provide adequate care that is consistent with the psychologist’s professional standard of care.

The NMPA and its members recognize that AID and suicide are fundamentally different psychological phenomena, and that these different categories of patients must be treated differently by the law for their patients to be able to get adequate psychological support at the end of life. Psychologists think of suicide as their greatest challenge, and they work tirelessly to prevent their patients from committing suicide. They also recognize that AID involves almost no substantive theoretical overlap with suicide. Being required to treat competent terminally ill patients seeking AID as potential suicide “victims” will undermine the quality of care they can provide just when dying patients need their help the most. This view of psychologists on this issue is especially important because psychologists are experts on mental health care related to suicide in this country. They are uniquely well positioned to understand the actual consequences of the determination of the issues before this Court on those who are at risk for suicide and those who seek access to aid in dying from their physicians.

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