ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -

A New Mexico judge has ruled some patients can choose a physician's aid in getting prescription medications to peacefully end their lives.

Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash ruled Monday that the ability of competent, terminally ill patients to choose aid in dying is a fundamental right under the state constitution.

In her ruling, she declared that such a right ensures the liberty, safety and happiness of terminally ill patients.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico was pleased with the decision.

The group had represented plaintiffs who wanted physicians in New Mexico to be able to prescribe the needed medications to patients who sought to end their lives on their own terms.

Under state law, assisting with suicide is a fourth-degree felony. The plaintiffs don't consider physicians aiding in dying a form of suicide.