aid in dying

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

In this era of modern medicine, the dying process can be prolonged. Can doctors legally prescribe fatal medications to terminally ill patients who request them?

That issue was at the heart of an Appeals Court hearing in New Mexico this week. 

Over the last 40 years, intensive care units and advances in medicine have stretched out the final days of our lives. Sometimes recovery is possible. But in other cases, it becomes a question of comfort.

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Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union will square off with the Attorney General's Office in court on Monday, Jan. 26, about whether terminally ill New Mexicans can choose to end their lives. 

District Court Judge Nan Nash ruled a year ago that physicians in New Mexico should be able to prescribe life-ending medications to terminally ill patients. This practice is called “aid in dying,” and the distinction is patients administer the medication themselves. 

Aja Riggs is on the road, visiting family and friends, and taking in some of the most beautiful natural places in the United States. She particularly loves what she calls "freaky natural things," like boiling mud coming out of the ground in Yellowstone and the organ pipe cacti near the Mexico border in Arizona.

"I'm kind of part-jokingly calling my travels my 'No Regrets Remission Tour,' " she laughs. 

A District Court judge ruled today that it's legal for doctors in New Mexico to prescribe medication so patients with terminal illnesses can end their own lives.

Judge Nan Nash wrote: "If decisions made in the shadow of one's imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are?" 

Aid in dying or assisted suicide?

Dec 1, 2013

12/13/13 8am -This month we’ll talk about one of the only sure things in life: death.  

  Should terminally ill people be able to choose to die when they’re ready? Should doctors be able to help them? What are people’s legal rights? We'll hear from Barack Wolf at the NM Legislative Health & Human Services Committee, and I’ll talk to Kathryn Tucker, an attorney fighting for the right to aid in dying at Compassion & Choices, and Aja RIggs, a plaintiff in the law suit asserting that New Mexico’s “assisted suicide” law does not apply to aid in dying.