SANTA FE, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) filed a writ with Supreme Court of New Mexico, asking the court to expedite review of Morris v. New Mexico, the case seeking the right of mentally competent, terminally ill people to seek physician aid in dying. On August 11, the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned the District Court’s previous decision which stated that aid in dying is a “fundamental right.” The Court of Appeals’ opinion makes the medically sound and safe practice of aid in dying illegal in New Mexico and leaves many terminally ill New Mexicans without the ability to avoid unnecessary suffering at the end of their life.
“The Court of Appeals’ opinion takes away a fundamental right from terminally ill patients,” said ACLU-NM cooperating attorney Laura Schauer Ives. “Today, we are asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to immediately review this decision and restore the right for terminally ill patients to self-administer a medication that will help them achieve a peaceful death. Without a speedy, definitive resolution to this matter, terminally ill New Mexicans risk becoming trapped in a dying process they find unbearable; they deserve better.”
ACLU-NM and DRLC filed the petition along with an affidavit from Susan Brown, a terminally ill cancer patient from Albuquerque who seeks the comfort of knowing she will not have to suffer unbearably through the final ravages of her illness before death arrives. From the petition:
Before the Court is one of the most private, intimate decisions made in a lifetime—how we face our own deaths. That decision should be reserved to the individual, not majority vote, informed by our most deeply held values, beliefs, and unique circumstances. Susan Brown is terminally ill, and her life will soon end. She seeks some control over the inevitable and wants the option of ingesting medication to achieve a peaceful death should her suffering become unbearable.
In support of the right to seek aid in dying, acclaimed Native American artist David Bradley of Santa Fe, who was diagnosed with terminal ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) four years ago, stated:
I believe that all mentally competent, terminally ill patients should have the option of aid-in-dying. When I heard that the NM courts had made it illegal, I was sad to know that I no longer had that option. One of my worst fears is ending up in a hospital, nearly a vegetable, with all kinds of tubes in me keeping me alive against my wishes while my family stands by in anguish. As an independent artist, I have always lived my life on my own terms guided by my strong principles. I want that to be true in my final days as well. When I die, I want to experience a peaceful death, at home, surrounded by my loved ones.