New Mexico judge says doctors can aid in dying

A New Mexico judge ruled Monday patients have a right to get help dying in a move that's sure to renew right to life debates.

Two doctors who previously worked in Oregon where such procedures are already legal brought the suit, along with cancer patient Aja Riggs. (Via CNN)

"Who asked that the state allow terminally ill, mentally competent patients in Bernalillo County to be able to end their lives with the help of family, friends and their physician." (Via KRQE)

In her ruling, District Court Judge Nan Nash wrote, “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.”​ (Via The New York Times)

This potentially makes New Mexico the fifth state to allow doctors to assist patients in dying. The issue draws passion from critics for religious reasons and some who fear poor or weak patients could be pressured to end their lives early.

While some media outlets have labeled Riggs as terminally ill, the Albuquerque Journal reports she's in remission for uterine cancer that's likely to return.

Thrilled with the ruling, Riggs said, "If my cancer returns and I face unbearable suffering, I want the option to cut it short, and to die peacefully at home, not hooked up to a hospital ventilator."

The case also inspires a lot of semantics.

While many media outlets — especially TV news broadcasts — say Judge Nash approved assisted suicide, supporters of the ruling insist this process of dying is different. (Via KOB-TV)

Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Hawaii already have laws in place allowing aid in dying or refuse to prosecute doctors for it.

Oregon's had the law on its books by far the longest since 1997, and the state health department reports 115 people filed prescriptions to die in 2012 with about two-thirds using them to end life. (Via Oregon Public Health Division)

New Mexico's attorney general is now deciding whether to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, so it's not clear whether the ruling applies to the entire state or just Bernalillo County.

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