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Right to Die With Doctor’s Help Affirmed in New Mexico

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The right of a terminally ill patient to die with dignity, assisted by a physician who may provide appropriate medication, was affirmed by a New Mexico state judge.

“This court cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private or more integral to the liberty, safety and happiness,” District Court Judge Nan G. Nash wrote in yesterday’s ruling. She issued a permanent injunction preventing authorities from prosecuting doctors who help competent, terminally ill individuals end their own lives.

The ruling followed a December bench trial pitting the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs against state Attorney General Gary King. New Mexico’s ban on assisted suicide doesn’t further a compelling state interest and violates the state constitution in criminalizing physician aid in dying, Nash concluded.

Patients who obtain the medications “often do not ultimately ingest them, but are comforted to have the option,” Nash wrote in her 14-page opinion.

Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for King, said the state may appeal after further review of the opinion.

“New Mexicans, both healthy and sick, can now enjoy the comfort and peace of mind that comes with having more control over their dying process,” ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said in an e-mailed statement. “Terminally ill patients do not have to stay trapped in a dying process they find unbearable.”

Five other states permit aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Hawaii and Vermont, according to the ACLU.

The case is Morris v. Brandenberg, D-202-CV-2012-02909, Second Judicial District Court, Bernalillo County, State of New Mexico (Albuquerque).

To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at pmilford@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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