New Mexico’s highest court denies right to aid in dying

Jul 1, 2016 | 0 comments

GavelYesterday, the New Mexico Supreme Court killed any hopes for a court-approved route for the state to allow physician aid to help terminally ill patients achieve a peaceful death. The next step in the journey is through the state legislature.

The headline in the Albuquerque Journal was confusing: “New Mexico assisted suicide law affirmed.”

New Mexico’s highest court Thursday said there is no fundamental or even important right under the state Constitution for a terminally ill patient to have assistance from a physician to end pain and choose the time of one’s own death.

In its ruling, a unanimous New Mexico Supreme Court bucked a growing movement of states allowing the practice, called aid in dying, by upholding New Mexico’s Assisted Suicide Act….

Aid in dying as a public issue promises not to go gently into that good night.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, said Thursday he has formed a working group to look at legislation to allow the practice and expects to have a bill ready for the January 60-day session.

“We started the process of working on a bill, but refrained from doing anything concrete until the Supreme Court ruled,” he said. “People with a terminal disease shouldn’t have to live in pain.”

Compassion & Choices logoKevin Diaz, National Director of Legal Advocacy with Compassion and Choices, sent out an email note late today. Here is what he had to say:

Four years ago, two oncologists and their patient asked a New Mexico court to authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill New Mexico residents. But this week the state’s Supreme Court ruled against a fundamental constitutional right to this end-of-life option.

The decision is disappointing. We know it means New Mexicans will continue suffering needlessly at the end of life. However, the court acknowledged the vital significance of the issue saying, “We respectfully acknowledge the magnitude and importance of the very personal desire of a terminally ill patient to decide how to safely and peacefully exit a painful and debilitating life. … [I]t is clear to us that such a right cannot be defined without comprehensive legislation.”

So the fight is far from over, and we’ll need the help of supporters like you, and the majority of New Mexicans who support medical aid in dying, as we pivot to a legislative strategy.

During the 19 months that a district court’s ruling prevailed, physicians in Bernalillo County were authorized to provide medical aid in dying for their eligible patients. Unfortunately this authorization was temporary, and now we must shift our focus to the state legislature to expand end-of-life options in New Mexico.

I would like to thank you and the thousands like you who have supported Compassion & Choices, and once again call on you to raise your voice for all those who would prefer a gentle death to unnecessary suffering at life’s end.

Let your voice be heard on this important issue!

A Good Goodbye