There are few topics in the medical and legal worlds more controversial than doctor-assisted suicide. Slowly, however, opinion on the subject appears to be changing. Now, a New Mexico judge has determined that doctors may legally prescribe drugs specifically designed to help their patients die.
That decision was made by New Mexico judge Nan Nash, who said that patients should have the right to assisted suicide because the state’s constitution specifically bars the government from depriving a person from enjoying life, liberty, and happiness. Clearly, the people suffering from painful and terminal illnesses are not enjoying life, nor are they happy.
“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.
Nash added that no doctor found responsible for helping a terminally ill patient die should face prosecution.
Nash’s decision was the result of a trial that began last month. In that case, several plaintiffs requested the judge make a decision on the legality of allowing doctors to write lethal prescriptions for terminally ill patients who have openly expressed a desire to end their lives.
Nash’s decision is being welcomed by several prominent organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Compassion & Choices (of Colorado), and the New Mexico Psychological Association.
But not everyone is pleased with the decision. Representatives for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops knowingly or not turned to the same argument used against the death penalty.
“As long as there is a chance for human error, we can’t have that,” the group said. “You can never reverse the decision you’ve made.”