Finally, Some Truly Compassionate Conservatism
People who don't understand what it means to be a classic conservative -- as in "classically liberal" -- probably won't get this headline as it applies to this blog item.
That kind of conservatism is supposed to be about personal autonomy and small government, and a decision in New Mexico fits right in with this.
Erik Eckholm writes in The New York Times that a New Mexico judge has affirmed the right to "aid in dying":
A state court in New Mexico said Monday that terminally ill residents have a constitutional right to obtain "aid in dying," a ruling that could make New Mexico the fifth state to allow doctors to prescribe fatal drug doses that suffering patients can use to end their lives.
"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," wrote Judge Nan G. Nash of the Second District Court in Albuquerque.
The case was brought by two doctors who sought protection against prosecution if they provided fatal drug prescriptions to a patient, and Aja Riggs, a 49-year-old woman with cancer who told the court in a December trial, "I don't want to suffer needlessly at the end."
Arguing their case were the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and Compassion & Choices, a national advocacy group. They asserted that a doctor's help for a competent, terminally ill patient who wished to hasten death was not covered by a 1960s state law making it a felony to assist a suicide.
The state argued that such an action by a doctor was covered by the law and that banning doctor-assisted suicide was consistent with individual rights under the State Constitution.
Judge Nash agreed that the law applied, but said that "the liberty, safety and happiness interest of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying is a fundamental right under our New Mexico Constitution."