NM Judge: Doctors Can Help Patients Die

Ruling could make state 5th to allow physician-assisted suicide
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2014 11:37 AM CST
NM Judge: Doctors Can Help Patients Die
Aja Riggs, of Santa Fe testifies before the New Mexico legislature in Santa Fe, Nov. 8, 2013. Riggs, who has advanced uterine cancer is arguing for her right to assisted suicide.   (AP Photo/Compassion & Choices)

Terminally ill patients have a right to get help ending their lives, a New Mexico judge ruled yesterday, carving out a massive exception to a 1960s state law that makes assisting suicide a felony. The ruling could make New Mexico the fifth state to allow physician-assisted suicide, the New York Times reports, though the state is considering appealing to the state Supreme Court. The case stems from two doctors' desire to give prescriptions for life-ending drugs to terminal patients who request them, along with the case of cancer patient Aja Riggs. "I don't want to suffer needlessly at the end," Riggs told the court. Her uterine cancer is currently in remission, but she says it is likely to return, according to CNN.

"This court cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private, or more integral to the liberty," Judge Nan Nash wrote. This right, she argued, was forged in New Mexico's constitution—apparently citing its guarantees to life, liberty, and property, the Albuquerque Journal implies—despite the 1960 law. "If decisions made in the shadow of one's imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are?" she wrote. (More New Mexico stories.)

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