2018 New Mexico Statutes
Chapter 30 - Criminal Offenses
Article 2 - Homicide
Section 30-2-4 - Assisting suicide.

Universal Citation: NM Stat § 30-2-4 (2018)
30-2-4. Assisting suicide.

Assisting suicide consists of deliberately aiding another in the taking of his own life.

Whoever commits assisting suicide is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

History: 1953 Comp., § 40A-2-5, enacted by Laws 1963, ch. 303, § 2-5.

ANNOTATIONS

Physician aid in dying is prohibited by this section. — The practice of aid in dying involves a physician deliberately prescribing a lethal dose of barbiturates with the understanding that the patient will self-administer the entire dose to end his or her life, should the patient choose to do so, conduct clearly encompassed by the plain language of 30-2-4 NMSA 1978. Morris v. Brandenburg, 2016-NMSC-027, aff'g 2015-NMCA-100, 356 P.3d 564.

Constitutionality. — Where petitioners, two doctors and their patient, sought declaratory and injunctive relief to the effect that either 30-2-4 NMSA 1978, New Mexico's criminal statute prohibiting assisted suicide, did not apply to the conduct defined by petitioners as physician aid in dying, or even if the statute did apply to physician aid in dying, such an application would be unconstitutional, petitioners failed to establish a fundamental liberty interest protected by the inherent rights clause or the due process clause of the New Mexico constitution, because the inherent rights clause has never been interpreted to be the exclusive source for a fundamental constitutional right, and on its own has always been subject to reasonable regulation, and there is a firm legal rationale behind the interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession, the interest in protecting vulnerable groups, including the poor, the elderly, and disabled persons, from abuse, neglect, and mistakes due to the risk of subtle coercion and undue influence in end-of-life situations, and the legitimate concern that recognizing a right to physician aid in dying will lead to voluntary or involuntary euthanasia. Morris v. Brandenburg, 2016-NMSC-027, aff'g 2015-NMCA-100, 356 P.3d 564.

Constitutionality. — Aid in dying is not a fundamental liberty interest under the New Mexico constitution, and therefore a mentally competent, terminally ill patient's interest in a physician's assistance in dying is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the due process clause of N.M. Const., Art. II, § 18 and is not entitled to protection under the state constitutional provision protecting inherent individual rights to life, liberty and happiness provided for in N.M. Const. Art. II, § 4. The district court, holding otherwise, erred in permanently enjoining the state from enforcing 30-2-4 NMSA 1978. Morris v. Brandenberg, 2015-NMCA-100, cert. denied, 2015-NMCERT-008.

Aid in dying is prohibited by this section. — A patient's choice to achieve a peaceful end of life through aid in dying, or the practice of a willing physician providing a lethal dose of a prescribed medication at the request of a mentally competent, terminally ill patient, is the taking of one's own life, and thus suicide within the meaning of this section; a physician's conduct of providing a patient a lethal dose of a prescribed medication, and thus the means to take his or her own life, is prohibited by this section. Morris v. Brandenberg, 2015-NMCA-100, cert. denied, 2015-NMCERT-008.

Second degree murder, assisted suicide, not same offense. — The second degree murder statute (Section 30-2-1B NMSA 1978) is aimed at preventing an individual from actively causing the death of someone contemplating suicide, whereas the assisting suicide statute is aimed at preventing an individual from providing someone contemplating suicide with the means to commit suicide. Thus, the two statutes do not condemn the same offense. State v. Sexson, 1994-NMCA-004, 117 N.M. 113, 869 P.2d 301, cert. denied, 117 N.M. 215, 870 P.2d 753.

Suicide pact not exemption from conviction for murder. — The existence of a suicide pact does not exempt someone from a conviction for committing murder. However, that general rule may not apply if the means of attempted suicide used presents the same risk to both of the parties at the same time, such as when a couple drive off a cliff together. Such is not the case when the victim is killed by a rifle, the trigger of which is pulled by the defendant. State v. Sexson, 1994-NMCA-004, 117 N.M. 113, 869 P.2d 301, cert. denied, 117 N.M. 215, 870 P.2d 753.

Suicide pact not assisting suicide. — There was enough evidence to support a conviction of second degree murder because there was sufficient evidence to show that the defendant actively participated in a suicide by holding the gun to the victim's head and pulling the trigger. "Aiding", in the context of determining whether one is criminally liable for their involvement in the suicide of another, is intended to mean providing the means to commit suicide, not actively performing the act which results in death. State v. Sexson, 1994-NMCA-004, 117 N.M. 113, 869 P.2d 301, cert. denied, 117 N.M. 215, 870 P.2d 753.

Am. Jur. 2d, A.L.R. and C.J.S. references. — 40 Am. Jur. 2d Homicide § 585.

Criminal liability for death of another as result of accused's attempt to kill self or assist another's suicide, 40 A.L.R.4th 702.

83 C.J.S. Suicide § 4.

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