Morris v. BrandenburgAnnotate this Case
The question this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on whether a mentally-competent-but-terminally-ill patient had a constitutional right to have a willing physician, consistent with accepted medical practices, prescribe a safe medication that the patient may self-administer for the purpose of peacefully ending the patient’s life. The implications of a "yes" from the Supreme Court would have been that a willing physician could assist the patient and avoid criminal liability because Section 30-2-4 would be unconstitutional as applied to the physician. If the Court answered "no," the alternatives for the patient would be to: (1) endure the prolonged physical and psychological consequences of a terminal medical condition that the patient finds intolerable; or (2) take his or her own life, possibly by violent or dangerous means. "Although the State does not have a legitimate interest in preserving a painful and debilitating life that will imminently come to an end, the State does have a legitimate interest in providing positive protections to ensure that a terminally ill patient’s end-of-life decision is informed, independent, and procedurally safe." The Court declined to hold that there was an absolute and fundamental constitutional right to a physician’s aid in dying and conclude that Section 30-2-4 was not unconstitutional on its face or as applied to Petitioners in this case.