Attorney general files appeal in right to die case

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is appealing a district court decision that allows doctors to help mentally competent, terminally ill patients end their own lives, without being prosecuted.

In January, District Court Judge Nan Nash ruled in favor of a lawsuit from two UNM Hospital doctors and cancer patient Aja Riggs, challenging the state law on assisted suicide.

Now, King is sending the case to a higher court.

He says it’s because he’s concerned the law might be interpreted differently in other judicial districts.

The ruling in question allows doctors to prescribe drugs for patients to take at home, on their own, to end their own lives.

King says it’s important to get direction from a higher, appellate court so all districts know how to interpret the law.

Plus, he says it’s the legislature’s job to set policy and to decide if an existing law is unconstitutional or not.

“Our argument is that the legislature has the right to set directives as to whether doctors can assist in a suicide or not. That’s a very important policy decision that should be made by the legislature,” says King.

Representatives with the ACLU say they’ve been expecting this appeal.

“We’re looking forward to taking it through the courts and, hopefully, upholding the lower court’s decision,” says New Mexico ACLU Communications Manager Micah McCoy.

King says it could take up to two years for the appellate court to make a final decision.

Right now, the type of assisted suicide in question is legal. King is hoping the appellate court will put a stop to it until it rules on the case.

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