New Mexico appeals court upholds assisted suicide ban

‘Aid in dying’ is not a ‘fundamental liberty interest,’ the state’s high court said.
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By Steve Weatherbe

By Steve Weatherbe

ALBUQUERQUE, NM, August 14, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) –The so-called right-to-die ran into a roadblock in New Mexico, whose court of appeal just ruled that “aid in dying” is not a “fundamental liberty interest.”

Alex Schadenberg, head of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, called the decision “great news” and dismissed the case for assisted suicide as one based on “a word game.”

The case involved Albuquerque consultant Aja Riggs, who is still alive thanks to a remission in her uterine cancer, but who along with two attending doctors won a January 2013 lower court ruling allowing her medical assistance to commit suicide.

The American Civil Liberties Union supported Riggs, while New Mexico’s attorney general defended the state’s 1963 law against aiding suicides, which the lower court judge disallowed in cases of people with terminal illnesses, like Riggs.

Riggs’ argument was two-fold, that what she wanted was “aid in dying” not “assisted suicide” as prohibited by law, and what’s more was a form “medical treatment,” to which she was entitled as a constitutional “privacy” right.

But Schadenberg rebuts, “Assisted suicide is not a medical treatment.”

The disability group Not Dead Yet was among those opposing Riggs. They argued the State of New Mexico was justified in making assisted suicide illegal by a “compelling public interest” to protect those with long term disabilities who had already endured a “long and tragic history of state-sanctioned discrimination against the disabled."

This “grotesque and unfair” discrimination in the past consisted of “withholding lifesaving medical assistance by medical professionals from children with severe disabilities.”

If New Mexico’s assisted suicide law was struck down, argued Not Dead Yet, disabled people would be discriminated against once again, by being “denied the benefit of New Mexico’s suicide prevention laws and programs.” The organization’s brief to the court argued that most people considering suicide are treated as if they are mentally ill and helped to overcome their illness. But the disabled, if the lower court ruling survived, would be helped to commit suicide rather than helped to recover from their depression. 

Riggs plans to appeal.

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