Health

New Mexico Judge Rules Assisted Suicide Constitutional

| by Will Hagle

If a new ruling by a state judge holds, New Mexico will become the fifth state to allow doctors to administer fatal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients that request to end their own lives. The ruling was given by New Mexico Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash, who decided in favor of cancer patient Aja Riggs. 

According to CNN, Riggs is a 50-year-old terminally ill cancer patient living in New Mexico that simply wanted a choice of whether or not to end her life on her own terms, despite her cancer currently being in remission. Her case was supported by advocacy groups the ACLU and Compassion & Choices.

“I am really pleased that the court has recognized that terminally ill patients should have more choice in the manner of their death. Most Americans want to die peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, not die in agony in a hospital. I feel the same way. If my cancer returns and I face intolerable suffering, I want the option to cut it short, and to die peacefully at home,” Riggs said. 

In her written decision, Judge Nash agreed with Riggs’ sentiments.  

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

“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. 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?” Judge Nash wrote. 

If the ruling holds, New Mexico would join Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont as one of five states that allows assist suicide. The addition of New Mexico to that list is somewhat surprising, as the politics of the other four states typically lean towards the left. New Mexico lawmakers have demonstrated their commitment to personal liberty in recent years, however, so the decision ultimately makes sense. 

Although most states ban assisted suicide, the concept has been in American politics since the early 20th century, as Ohio tried yet failed to pass a similar bill in 1906. Oregon, the earliest adopter of the modern assisted suicide laws, saw the amount of doctor-assisted deaths reached a record high of 77 in the year 2012, according to Life News. 

The New Mexico ruling is currently being reviewed by the Attorney General for a possible appeal.