Euthanasia is one of the most controversial health care law topics today. While many people consider permitting a person to die naturally more humane than having them spend a significant amount of time on life support with artificial feeding and hydration, some take that concept further and believe physician-assisted suicide should be an option.
Death with Dignity in New Mexico
New Mexico law is currently in a state of flux. In January 2014, Second Judicial District Judge Nash decided that terminally ill, mentally competent patients have a fundamental right to aid in dying under the New Mexico State Constitution. However, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled against the 2014 decision in September of 2015. The practice is now illegal in the state, but a challenge in the New Mexico Supreme Court is likely.
Removal of Life Support in New Mexico
Individuals can decide in advance to have artificial life support withdrawn, if ever needed. To make the process easier for your family if something catastrophic happens to you, you should consider creating a living will and health care power of attorney to make your health care wishes known to your medical care team.
The chart below outlines the main euthanasia laws in New Mexico.
|Code Section||New Mexico Statutes Section 24-7A-13: Effect of the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act and 30-2-4: Assisting Suicide|
|Legal View of Euthanasia||The Uniform Health Care Decisions Act, which New Mexico adopted in 1995, doesn’t condone or authorize mercy killing, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of health care when prohibited by other laws.|
|Effect of Withholding Life-Sustaining Procedures||Withholding or withdrawal of life-support procedures, like artificial hydration and feeding that are only prolonging an inevitable death, isn’t suicide or homicide, or any other crime (if done lawfully following the provisions of the Health-Care Decisions Act).|
|Assisted Suicide||New Mexico law prohibits deliberately helping another person take his or her own life. This crime is a fourth degree felony which can be punished by 18 months in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.|
If you or a loved one are experiencing a terminal illness, you may want to reach out for help. If you have questions about euthanasia or dying with dignity in New Mexico, you may want to consult with a local health care law attorney who can explain your legal options.
For anyone with thoughts of suicide, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For caregivers seeking support, try contacting the New Mexico Aging & Long-Term Services Department about caregiver services at 1-800-432-2080 to see if there are resources in your area.
If you’re a health care professional who’s been contacted about a possible assisted suicide, you should immediately contact an experienced New Mexico criminal defense lawyer. You may also need to work with your employer about the incident and filing any necessary and legally required reports.
Note: State laws change frequently, so please verify these laws by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable lawyer.
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