New Mexico

Current law regarding assisted suicide

Assisting Suicide consists of deliberately aiding another in the taking of his own life.  Whoever commits assisting suicide is guilty of a fourth degree felony.
(N,M.Stat. § 30-2-4)

Challenge to New Mexico law

On March 15, 2012, two doctors filed a challenge to New Mexico’s law on assisted suicide in the Second Judicial District Court of New Mexico (Morris v. New Mexico).  According to attorneys in the case, the plaintiffs are seeking to exempt doctor-prescribed suicide which they call “aid-in-dying” from the assisted suicide law. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are from the ACLU of New Mexico and Denver-based Compassion & Choices.
An Amended Complaint was filed on May 9, 2012.

On January 13, 2014, New Mexico’s Second Judicial Court Judge Nan Nash ruled that terminally ill patients who are mentally competent have a constitutional right to seek a physician’s assistance in ending their own lives and that doctors could not be prosecuted under the state’s assisted suicide law.
Text of decision

“New Mexico Lower Court Parrots the Language and Platitudes of Assisted Suicide Advocacy Groups”
(Not Dead Yet — January 14, 2014)
What needs to happen next is an appeal by the New Mexico Attorney General.  Please contact AG Gary King through his Director of Communications Phil Sisneros at psisneros@nmag.gov to urge that essential next step.

“Attorney general appeals ruling on assisted suicide”
(Albuquerque Journal — March 13, 2014)
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has appealed a recent District Court ruling that bars prosecution of physicians for aiding terminally ill patients with assisted suicide.

Articles

“Editorial: AG makes right choice in aid-in-dying appeal”
(Albuquerque Journal — March 17, 2014)
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is right to ask the state Court of Appeals to weigh in on a recent District Court ruling that bans prosecution of physicians if they assist terminally ill patients in dying….In filing the appeal, King says that if people want to change that law, the Legislature is the proper venue to make that change.  He has said previous efforts to enact aid-in-dying laws have failed to clear committee.

“Attorney general appeals ruling on assisted suicide”
(Albuquerque Journal — March 13, 2014)
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has appealed a recent District Court ruling that bars prosecution of physicians for aiding terminally ill patients with assisted suicide.

“Former AG Vacco weighs in on physician-assisted suicide”
(Buffalo Law Journal — February 4, 2014)
“…the elderly, the disabled and those who cannot afford adequate treatment — are the ones most at risk for potential abuse…”
[Vacco reflects on New Mexico District Court judge's decision]

“Judge wrong about Montana suicide-aid-law”
(Albuquerque Journal — January 31, 2014)
Jeff Essmann, President of the Montana Senate, explains the errors about Montana in Judge Nan Nash’s findings, saying,”The judge should have done her homework.”

“New Mexico Lower Court Parrots the Language and Platitudes of Assisted Suicide Advocacy Groups”
(Not Dead Yet — January 14, 2014)
The New Mexico plaintiffs are all people who seem privileged enough to be justified in their confidence that the patient in this case will not be coerced into suicide, will not be treated like an unwanted burden on those around her, and is not at risk of being administered the lethal drugs without her consent.
It would be nice if everyone with a difficult illness could have the same confidence. But in the real world, where elder abuse is on the rise, C&C’s platitudes should not distract us from our collective obligation to consider the impact on everyone, not just the privileged few.

“‘Aid in Dying’ Ruled OK in New Mexico”
(Time — January 13, 2014)
A New Mexico district judge ruled on Monday that terminally ill patients who are mentally competent have a constitutional right to seek a physician’s assistance in ending their own lives.

“Need a doc? Take a number?”
(Albuquerque Journal — January 12, 2014)
“There are shortages not only i primary care, but there are shortages in specialty physicians, ” said Jerry Harrison of New Mexico Health Resources Inc….
The result: “Longer waits, or patients must travel,” Harrison said recently, “Or, quite sincerely, people co without.”

“Right-to-die case to start today”
(Albuquerque Journal — December 11, 2013)
Plaintiffs say current law against assisted suicide is unconstitutional; woman seeks right to choose end to her life if cancer returns….The law, called the Assisted Suicide Statute, makes it a fourth=degree felony to deliberately aid another in taking his or her own life.

“Opinion: Physician-assisted suicide a slippery slope”
(Health Policy Solutions — February 18, 2013)
“Without a change to the current New Mexico law, the only thing hindering dying patients from committing suicide is their conscience…..[A]sk your physician this question: If your patient has received the prescription of Seconal that YOU prescribed and has made all his/her arrangements for death and he/she comes to your office and you find him/her on the ledge of the building: what are you, the physician obligated to do?”

“Steve Lopez: End of life case in New Mexico may affect California”
(Los Angeles Times — August 14, 2012)
Tucker [Kathryn Tucker, legal affairs director for Compassion & Choices] said California’s statute on assisting suicide is similarly vague, and if the New Mexico court rules in favor of allowing aid in dying, “it could have persuasive influence in California.”

“Doctors, patient challenge New Mexico assisted suicide ban”
(Health Policy Solutions — July 11, 2012)
The question before the court in New Mexico is absurdly simple and yet impossibly complex: What is the meaning of “assisted suicide”?
A similar lawsuit filed in Connecticut was dismissed by the state Superior Court in 2010. In its ruling the court said, “taking one’s own life even for a sympathetic reason is suicide” and therefore physician immunity from prosecution does not apply.

“Some Want A Choice At the End of the Road”
(ABQ Journal — May 20, 2012)
“I’m actually going to take a pen and write a prescription for something that will end someone’s life.”  Katherine Morris is one of two New Mexico oncologists bringing a lawsuit that asks the court to make a distinction between “assisting suicide,” which is a felony in New Mexico, and a physician “aiding in dying,” which is doing just what Morris did twice in Oregon — prescribing a lethal dose of medicine, usually Seconal pills.

“Santa Fe woman joins lawsuit to clarify state law making assisted suicide a felony”
(Santa Fe New Mexican — May 9, 2012)
State law currently says, “Assisting suicide consists of deliberately aiding another in the taking of his own live. Whoever commits assisting suicide is guilty of a fourth degree felony.”
But “aid in dying is not suicide,” said Kathryn Tucker, director of legal affairs for Compassion and Choices. “People used to refer to it that way, but it’s terribly inaccurate.”
Aid in dying, she said occurs when a physician writes a prescription for a lethal dose of a medication for a mentally competent, terminally ill patient, who can then choose whether or not, when and where to ingest the medication.