2 New Mexico Doctors Challenge Assisted Suicide Law

Reply Tue 13 Mar, 2012 10:47 am
I wish all states would make assisted suicide available to benefit their dying people. BBB

2 New Mexico Doctors Challenge Assisted Suicide Law
By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Mar 13, 2012

A pair of New Mexico physicians plan to file a lawsuit this week seeking legal protection for doctors who help terminally ill patients die, attorneys said Monday.

The lawsuit is intended to protect physicians who prescribe medication to patients who intend to use it to hasten their own deaths, said Kathryn Tucker, legal director for the nonprofit Compassion and Choices.

The lawsuit will ask a judge to clarify a decades-old New Mexico law that makes it a felony to assist a suicide, Tucker said.

The lawsuit will be filed Thursday in Second Judicial District Court on behalf of two physicians and possibly some patients, Tucker said. She declined to identify the plaintiffs or defendants named in the lawsuit.

Compassion and Choices is a Denver-based nonprofit group that advocates for better end-of-life care.

Tucker plans to file the lawsuit in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

The New Mexico statute is vaguely worded and doesn’t specifically prohibit a physician from prescribing potentially lethal medications, said Laura Schauer Ives, the ACLU’s managing staff attorney.

The attorneys will argue that the New Mexico law doesn’t apply to physicians if the drugs are prescribed to terminally ill, mentally competent adults who self-administer the medication, Ives said.

“We seek clarification that doctors who respond to such a request are not assisting a suicide,” Ives said Monday.

Ives predicted that the case eventually will advance to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The law “does not specifically prohibit a physician from aiding a terminally ill patient of sound mind,” Ives said. And, “we don’t believe that was the intent of the statute.”

New Mexico’s statute states only that “assisting suicide consists of deliberately aiding another in the taking of his own life.” It makes doing so a fourth-degree felony.

In December 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that state law protects doctors in Montana from prosecution for helping terminally ill patients die, according to news reports.

In two states, Washington and Oregon, voters approved laws that allow physicians to help terminally ill people hasten their deaths.
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