September 1, 2015

Right to ‘aid in dying?’ Supreme Court sets oral argument date

Joe Gratz


The New Mexico Supreme Court will rule on whether there is a right to “aid in dying” in New Mexico or not.

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

Joe Gratz

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

Oral arguments will take place on October 26, in an expedited timeline. Decisions can typically take weeks or months afterward, and ruling from the bench and following up at a later date with a written opinion is extremely unlikely in such a case such as this.

The Supreme Court set the date, including earlier dates for briefs and answer briefs to be sent to the court, on Monday.

At issue is whether it is legal for physicians to aid terminally ill, mentally capable patients in choosing to end their life.

A district court judge had ruled in 2014 that there was a right to aid in dying in New Mexico, saying a 1963 law was invalid.

Last month, the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision and said there was no right to aid in dying in New Mexico. This put the law back into effect. The law makes it a fourth degree felony for “assisting suicide.”

Those who support a right to aid in dying filed for an appeal to the state Supreme Court a week after the appellate court decision. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Disability Rights Legal Center asked the state’s high court for an expedited review of the case in part because of terminally ill patients in New Mexico.

“Without a speedy, definitive resolution to this matter, terminally ill New Mexicans risk becoming trapped in a dying process they find unbearable; they deserve better,” ACLU-NM attorney Laura Schauer Ives said in a statement.

New Mexico was one of five states where such a practice is legal. Another, Hawaii, has no law either way on the issue.