A lawsuit challenging New Mexico’s law prohibiting doctors from helping terminally ill patients end their lives will go before a state district court in Albuquerque on Wednesday. "Assisting suicide” is currently a 4th degree felony.
Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico contend that the current state statute does not specifically reference a physician when prohibiting "assisting suicide."
Two New Mexico doctors are now looking to clarify that legal definition so they can begin prescribing medication to assist terminally ill patients who are mentally competent end their lives.
ACLU attorney Laura Schauer Ives said patients have the right to decide how much suffering they should endure when facing a terminal illness.
"This choice is one that is to preserve the life they know," Ives explained, "not a destruction of life, and that is why patients who have elected this option and physicians generally agree that it’s not suicide."
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg declined to comment on the issue.
A ruling on the case is expected in 2014.