Author(s)： Arthur G. Svenson
By some accounts, New Mexico Judge Nan Nash fashioned a landmark ruling in a civil dispute pitting two doctors and a cancer patient against the state. At issue, a statute making it unlawful to “deliberately aid another in the taking of his own life.” Plaintiffs in Morris v. King (2014) contended that for a “mentally-competent, terminally-ill individual” who sought a peaceful death over a painful life, a doctor prescribing lethal drugs for this purpose could not be prosecuted since physician aid in dying was not assisted suicide. While plaintiffs’ statutory claim was rejected, Judge Nash did hold that the statute as applied to physician aid in dying violated state constitutional guarantees safeguarding inalienable rights to “liberty, safety and happiness.” I argue that the interpretive path Judge Nash designed to justify her ruling is littered at critical junctures with strangely settled issues. For this reason, her judicial prescription legalizing this end-of-life choice wants the persuasive foundation that such a landmark holding deserves.
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