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.
The decision comes as the result of a two-day bench trial where two doctors and a uterine cancer patient asked the judge to rule on whether doctors would be persecuted for writing prescriptions for terminally ill patients who wanted to use those drugs to end their lives, according to the Associated Press,
Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash also ruled that doctors could not be prosecuted under the state’s assisted suicide law. Under the law, assisting a suicide is a fourth-degree felony. A lawsuit was originally filed in March 2012 and had the support of several civil rights and medical organizations, including the New Mexico Psychological Association, which said that assisted suicide and “aid in dying” were different.
“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,” Nash wrote in the ruling.
Five states, not including New Mexico, have laws that permit terminally ill patients to end their own lives.