December 10, 2013

NMPA Files Amicus Brief in Morris v. New Mexico in Support of Expanded End of Life Choices

December 10, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

Albuquerque, N.M. – Today, the New Mexico Psychological Association (NMPA) filed an amicus brief in support of Morris v. New Mexico, the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of New Mexico and Compassion & Choices’ that asks the court to clarify that physicians who provide aid in dying to  mentally competent, terminally ill patients do not violate New Mexico’s law against "assisting suicide."

The NMPA, the largest organization of professional doctorate-level psychologists in New Mexico and the leading source of professional standards and policy for psychologists who practice within the state, unequivocally states in its brief that aid in dying and suicide are fundamentally  different.

"The NMPA is affirming what most medical, health policy, and mental health professionals increasingly acknowledge: aid in dying for mentally competent, terminally ill patients is no kind of suicide," said Rob Schwartz, University of New Mexico law professor, nationally recognized authority on health law, and co-author of the brief. "We believe it is important that the law reflects this distinction so that doctors are not prevented from providing patients with more comfort and control during their dying process."

The NMPA states:
The NMPA and its members recognize that AID [aid in dying] and suicide are fundamentally different psychological phenomena, and that these different categories of patients must be treated differently by the law for their patients to be able to get adequate psychological support at the end of life. Psychologists think of suicide as their greatest challenge, and they work tirelessly to prevent their patients from committing suicide. They also recognize that AID involves almost no substantive theoretical overlap with suicide…

"Medical, mental health, and health policy experts recognize that the choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death through aid in dying is no kind of 'suicide'. This case asks the court to recognize this, so that physicians in NM willing to provide aid in dying to their mentally competent, terminally ill patients feel safe doing so," said Kathryn Tucker, Director of Legal Affairs and Advocacy for Compassion & Choices. "The growing support for aid in dying is evident. Five states already allow patients to seek aid in dying if they find their dying process becomes unbearable, and this week we will argue before the court that New Mexico law does not prohibit this practice."

The ACLU of New Mexico and Compassion & Choices will take Morris v. New Mexico to trial on Wednesday, December 11 and Thursday, December 12 in New Mexico’s 2nd Judicial District.

The NMPA’s amicus brief is available at:
aclu-nm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Morris-Brief-final.pdf

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