ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state judge in New Mexico has ruled that mentally-competent terminally ill patients have a constitutional right to obtain lethal drugs to end their life.
Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash issued the ruling on Monday in a decision that some believe may open the doors to full-fledged physician-assisted suicide in the state.
“This Court cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private or more integral to the liberty, safety and happiness of a New Mexican than the right of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying,” Nash wrote. “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, than what decisions are?”
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by two doctors in the state, and 49-year-old Aja Riggs, a cancer patient who is now in remission. The challenge was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the right-to-die advocacy organization Compassion & Choices.
While New Mexican law criminalizes assisted suicide, the organizations argued before the court that the restrictions did not apply to the terminally ill. The state disagreed, asserting that the law included physicians’ “aiding in dying.”
Nash concluded that “the liberty, safety and happiness interest of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying is a fundamental right under our New Mexico Constitution.”
“New Mexicans, both healthy and sick, now enjoy the comfort and peace of mind that come with knowing they can prevent a prolonged, agonized dying process at the end of life,” ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives wrote in a statement following the decision.
But Paul Holt of For God’s Glory Alone Ministries and pastor of First Baptist Church of Magdalena wrote in a blog post that Nash’s ruling further contributes to the culture of death in America.
“From a biblical point of view, the Lord gives life. While death is unpleasant and even unnatural, the Lord holds the keys to death and hell,” he wrote. “As we move away from God and His truths, these things become more difficult to grasp. But notice that many who believe in the right of abortion, the killing of the young, also believe in the right to kill the terminally ill. This tends to lead to the right of one person perceived to be of more value over the rights of those of lesser value.”
“It is a slippery slope on which we find ourselves,” Holt continued. “Regardless of the issues, when we begin to move away from the self evident truths and rights granted by our Creator and articulated in our Constitution by reinterpretation, we lose those rights altogether.”
As previously reported, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed the “Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act” into law last year, likewise legalizing the provision of lethal drugs to the terminally ill. Three other states have also sanctioned physician-assisted suicide: Oregon, Washington and Montana.