Death With Dignity Becomes War on the Elderly in New Mexico

State   Anna Maria Hoffman   Jul 17, 2012   |   1:03PM    Santa Fe, NM

Currently, Doctors Aroop Mangalik and Katherine Morris, along with cancer patient Aja Riggs, are challenging New Mexico’s pro-life ban on assisted suicide in court. They ultimately want to prove that their loophole “aid in dying” argument—giving conscious terminally ill patients lethal medicine to die—is not assisted suicide.

In their view, New Mexico’s assisted suicide ban does not take advanced terminal illness treatment into account and does not bar physicians from practicing “aid in dying” procedures. Looks like these plaintiffs are circumventing the state’s law to impose their pro-death will through court.

Essentially, this case is a carbon copy of Baxter v. Montana (2009), which ruled that terminally ill patients have the “right to die,” even with the help of a physician, and that prosecuted physicians can potentially defend “humane” consent they gave to their patients. Looking to this case for inspiration, Doctors Mangalik and Morris are adamantly pushing for assisted “death with dignity” in New Mexico, because they believe that “symptomatic relief [for terminally ill patients] is impossible to achieve without the use of terminal sedation, a practice where the physician administers medications to render the patient unconscious, while nutrition and hydration are withheld until death occurs.”

Sounds like a pair of compassionate and oh-so humanitarian doctors that truly care about the health and safety of society’s most vulnerable adults, right? No, wrong. If these doctors were truly abiding by the Hippocratic oath, they would not be advocating for a merciless way to starve rather than truly heal patients suffering from terrible terminal illnesses.

To humanize their actions, Doctors Mangalik and Morris have chosen Aja Riggs as one of their fellow plaintiffs. Aja, who unfortunately suffers from pain caused by advanced uterine cancer, decided to join the case, because she wants herself and others to have the choice to end their lives with the help of a physician. Although her justifications make sense given her condition, assisted suicide should not be the solution for patients with terminal illnesses.

Why? Because terminally ill patients have the very same human dignity that the unborn and healthy infants, children, and adults have, even if they are unfortunately trapped in a state of incontinence and have difficulties with controlling basic bodily functions. Instead, patients like Ms. Riggs should seek palliative care—true compassionate and pro-life care that helps terminally ill patients relieve their pain and live their life to the fullest extent. Moreover, it is also patient-focused, since it fosters a comfortable, homelike environment that suits the patient’s needs. Although palliative care does not reverse the patient’s condition and completely relieve suffering, it truly respects every patient’s inherent human dignity by promoting natural death and reaffirming life.

If Ms. Riggs and Doctors Mangalik and Morris win this case with their loophole argument, New Mexico will embark on the deathly slippery slopes that Oregon and Washington state have already taken. Since the “Death with Dignity Act” was enacted in Oregon in 1998, few psychiatric evaluations have been given to patients seeking assisted suicide, and patients receive written prescriptions years in advance before they meet the 6-month life expectancy guideline.

In Washington, a 2011 state report shockingly does not specify if patients voluntarily died from assisted suicide. As a result, these “pro-choice” laws that champion “death with dignity” have only resulted in rampant abuse, malpractice, and lies. Although this case will be finalized next year, New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens—the elderly—should be deeply concerned about Morris v. New Mexico, since it poses a threat to their very health, safety and longevity. Besides protecting unborn children from abortion, we must continue to protect the elderly—our grandparents—from the perils of assisted suicide.

LifeNews Note: Anna Maria Hoffman writes for the Family Research Council blog.