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Morris v. New Mexico

Update June 30, 2016: Four years after two oncologists and their patient asked a New Mexico Court to authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill New Mexico residents, the state’s Supreme Court has decisively ruled against a constitutional right to this end of life option. Read our statement here

Aja Riggs, a New Mexico woman with advanced uterine cancer, and physicians Katherine Morris and Aroop Mangalik are asking a New Mexico court to rule that no law prevents doctors in the state from providing aid in dying. Compassion & Choices has filed amicus curie briefing in support, as the case is considered by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

On January 13, 2014, New Mexico Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash issued a landmark decision that terminally ill, mentally competent patients have a fundamental right to aid in dying under the substantive due process clause of the New Mexico State Constitution. This ruling protected the medical practice from prosecution in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Compassion & Choices was co-counsel with the ACLU of New Mexico in the case. The New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed Judge Nash’s ruling on August 11, 2015, in a 2-1 split decision. The case is before the New Mexico Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in early 2016. Compassion & Choices filed a friend of the court brief with the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Read Aja’s story:

Santa Fe woman joins lawsuit to clarify state law making assisted suicide a felony
By Phaedra Haywood
The New Mexican
May 9, 2012

Aja tells why she joined the case:

Ms. Riggs, Dr. Morris and Dr. Mangalik are asking the court to declare that physicians who provide a prescription for medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient, which the patient could consume to bring about a peaceful death, would not be subject to criminal prosecution under existing New Mexico law, which makes a crime of assisting another to “commit suicide.”

The choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death is no kind of “suicide,“ the case asserts, and the physician does not assist such a patient in “committing suicide.” The ACLU of New Mexico represents the plaintiffs, while Compassion & Choices (C&C) has filed an amicus briefing in support of the plaintiffs’ position. C&C was co-counsel with the ACLU when the case was originally filed.

Katherine Morris, MD, is a surgical oncologist, cancer researcher and assistant professor of medicine. Dr. Aroop Mangalik is a practicing oncologist as well as a clinical researcher in internal medicine and hematology-oncology, and a professor of medicine.

Read more:

New Mexico Psychological Association Says Physician Aid in Dying is No Kind of Suicide

If you’d like to get in touch with a member of our Legal Advocacy department, please click here.