October 26, 2015

NM Supreme Court hears ‘aid in dying’ arguments

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The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether or not the state should allow some medical patients a right to “aid in dying” on Monday morning.

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, represented by private attorney Laura Schauer Ives, argued in favor of allowing terminally ill patients, who are deemed mentally competent, the right to seek medication from physicians that would end their respective lives.

In a written statement from the ACLU-NM, Schauer Ives said a patient’s right to “aid in dying” is “a fundamental right under our state constitution.”

“As we await the court’s final opinion on this issue, our thoughts are with the many New Mexicans living with terminal illness who are watching this case to see if they will have access to aid in dying if or when they need it,” Schauer Ives said.

Scott Fuqua, who represented the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, argued that it should be the Legislature, not the courts, who decides whether it is legal for a patient to end their own life in some circumstances.

Fuqua told justices the first question the court should address is whether or not it is “a fundamental right” for a terminally ill patient to end his or her life.

After the hearing,  a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office released a statement saying it is the AG’s intention to uphold current state law.

“It is the duty of the Office of the Attorney General to enforce the rule of law in New Mexico and we look forward to definitive guidance from our Supreme Court on this issue of public concern,” wrote AG spokesman James Hallinan.

The Supreme Court will likely take a few months to make a decision.

The case came to the high court after the state Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the Second Judicial District Court that allowed doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients earlier.