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Aid-in-dying case to be heard

The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to review a decision about physician aid in dying to mentally competent, terminally ill persons – and on a schedule that sets oral argument for 9 a.m. Oct. 26.

The high court late Monday granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, which joined with Disability Rights Legal Center to represent two physicians and a cancer patient seek clarification of a law barring “assisted suicide,” which they say is clearly distinguishable from aid in dying.

Nan Nash, 2nd Judicial District Court, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs but was reversed by a 2-1 ruling by the Court of Appeals last month. The appeals court’s decision generated three separate opinions in nearly 150 pages, with Judges Miles Hanisee and Tim Garcia reversing Nash and Judge Linda Vanzi writing a forceful dissent.

Nash conducted an evidentiary hearing at which doctors involved in administering Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act testified about procedures used in that state over the last two decades.

She found a fundamental right to aid in dying under the New Mexico Constitution subsequently rejected by the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court orders require simultaneous briefing due Sept. 23 updating the court on the question since it was briefed for the appeals court.

Laura Schauer Ives, ACLU cooperating attorney for Drs. Katherine Morris and Aroop Mangalik and patient Aja Riggs of Santa Fe, said she hopes the Supreme Court will uphold Nash’s original opinion.

“Many terminally ill New Mexicans are watching this case closely … to see whether they will be able to choose a peaceful death if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

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