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Guest column: Reject dangerous, discriminatory assisted suicide bills

The Diné Hataałii Association released the following statement on Monday, which outlines opposition to current legislation being considered that would attempt to legalize assisted suicide in the state of New Mexico.

As Diné (Navajo), we have a distinct culture and language, and time-honored norms, values, and philosophy of life that pre-dates colonial, western ways of being.

As such, the Diné Hataałii Association is firmly opposed to H.B. 47/S.B. 308, legislation to legalize assisted suicide in New Mexico, as a dangerous measure that will have adverse impact on our Diné (Navajo) people.

DHA exists to protect, preserve, and promote the Diné cultural wisdom, spiritual practice, and ceremonial knowledge for present and future generations.

DHA is certified and incorporated under the auspices of the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development.

Continuing as the original medicine people since time immemorial, the DHA members offer public health support through ceremonial interventions, herbal therapies, storytelling, and sharing of cultural knowledge.

Diné Be’ezéé’ Ííł’íní Yee Da’ahótą’ígíí, the Diné Hataałii Association are in reality, the first responders and undeniably essential, frontline public health workers who have always assisted the Navajo Nation.

The role and responsibilities of the DHA and its members is to maintain the overall health and wellness of our people and the Nation.

DHA also provides cultural consultation and technical assistance to local and state authorities and other entities on health and safety related matters, which could not be more important to our people in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB 47/SB 308 create an untenable situation in which assisted suicide will be allowed and runs counter to our belief that every life is sacred and must be treated as such.

To disregard one’s life also runs counter to who we are as healers and directly violates the Navajo Nation Fundamental Laws and, therefore, is an act of utmost disregard and exclusion of how we view life. Life is meant to be lived, not extinguished heedlessly.

Further, HB 47/SB 308 protect medical providers who support and prescribe assisted suicide by giving them the ability to coerce the patient, pick up the lethal drugs and give them to the patient without his/her consent.

No medical professionals are required to be present at the time of death so the patient’s heir or caregiver can administer the drugs without fear of being caught.

This careless legislation, by HB 47/SB 308 will only instigate abuse of our elders – who are sacred – will likely promote more serious conflicts on life and death issues in New Mexico.

There is no requirement for prescribing physicians to ensure sound psychological/psychiatric capacity through psychological/psychiatric evaluation of patients who are depressed, experiencing a mental health diagnosis and contemplating assisted suicide.

The suicide rate among our Diné people is over 2.5 times the national average. How do we hope to curb this suicide tragedy among our people if we support legislation that provides immunity for physicians who engage in prescribed suicide?

For all of these reasons and, especially, to protect our community and elders, we urge New Mexico senators and the governor to reject this dangerous and discriminatory public policy.

The diversity of the residents of New Mexico is reflected by the unique health and life needs of all our residents. Therefore, all laws entertained by New Mexico must adhere to the uniqueness and differences inclusive of Native American beliefs, including the Diné cultural healing beliefs, healing philosophies and interventions as well as the culturally relevant teachings/stories.

It is our sovereign authority as Diné people to institute our own health solutions that meet our unique needs, and to support our culturally relevant methods and tools for healing and restoration toward Hózhó.

The Diné Hataałii Association is comprised of leaders and caretakers of Diné traditional cultural wisdom, ceremony, and herbal healing knowledge. We represent the original health care system of the Diné.

We are invoked with a special purpose in this world to ensure that the Navajo Nation continues its journey towards restoring health, Hózhó (happiness, well-being, harmony, balance) and the utmost protection of Iiná (life).

We will continue working towards this end as we have always done.


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