Categorized | Legal News

Only the Good Die Young – Unless You’re in New Mexico


When Jack Kevorkian went to jail in 1999 for second-degree murder, not everyone was happy. His advocacy for a patient’s right to end his or her own life was both unwavering and riddled with controversy: not all of his patients were terminally ill, “they” said (whoever “they” were, that is), and assisting anyone in a suicide attempt was morally and ethically wrong.

It appears, however, that “they” might have been wrong. According to the New York Times (1/14, Eckholm, Subscription Publication, 9.61M), a judge in New Mexico has ruled people of that same state have a constitutional right to obtain aid when it comes to ending their lives. Judge Nan G. Nash of the Second District Court in Albuquerque 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.

While many people see no real issue with a terminally ill patient ending his or her life, rather than living in pain or with a debilitating disease, this case raises questions about ethics that move beyond simple right or wrong.

All doctors take an oath to “do no harm.” (This oath is often the basis for medical malpractice cases rooted in negligence: a negligent doctor isn’t fulfilling his or her half of the bargain.) So when a doctor or nurse decides that assisting a patient in suicide is a more honest approach to that oath than doing whatever is possible to help that patient survive, we all find ourselves on a slippery slope.

Did Judge Nash do us any favors? Maybe. Maybe not. Of course, the people she may – or may not – be really helping won’t be able to tell us, either.

If you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice, Cohen, Placitella & Roth can help. Call 888.375.7600 or contact us online.

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