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Attorney general appeals ruling on assisted suicide

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has appealed a recent District Court ruling that bars prosecution of physicians for aiding terminally ill patients with assisted suicide.

King said one of the problems with the Jan. 13 ruling by Albuquerque Judge Nan Nash is that it doesn’t set a statewide precedent on the issue.

“We feel, win or lose, we need some decision by the (state) Supreme Court, or at least the appeals court, that will apply across the state,” King told the Journal on Wednesday.

Nash ruled that New Mexico’s Assisted Suicide statute – which prohibits assisted suicide – violates citizens’ constitutional rights.

“This court cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private or more integral to the liberty, safety and happiness of a New Mexican than the right of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying,” she said in her ruling.

King said he also wants to protect the assisted suicide law.

“Our position is we’re defending the integrity of the statute,” he said. If people are interested in changing state law, they should propose new legislation, King said.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and a national advocacy group called Compassion and Choices. The group has said it is willing to fight an appeal.

The suit was brought on behalf of Aja Riggs, of Santa Fe, who has uterine cancer that is now in remission.