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Washington v. Glucksberg

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 521 U.S. 702,117 S. Ct. 2258,117 S. Ct. 2302; 138 L. Ed. 2d 772,

Brief Fact Summary. The Supreme Court of the United States held that a law that prohibits anyone (including physicians) from aiding or causing another to commit suicide is constitutional

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution does not include the right to assist suicide.

Facts. It is a crime to assist suicide in Washington. Petitioners are the State of Washington and its Attorney General. Respondents are physicians who practice medicine in Washington. Respondents occasionally treat terminally ill patients and claim that they would help these patients end their lives if not for Petitioners’ ban on assisted suicides. In January 1993, Respondents, along with three terminally ill patients (who have since died), and a non-profit organization that counsels people considering physician assisted suicide sued in the United Stated District Court claiming that Petitioners’ assisted suicide ban is unconstitutional. The District Court invalidated the statute. The Court of Appeals reversed, but then reversed itself en banc and affirmed the District Court. The en banc decision held that “the Constitution encompasses a due process liberty interest in controlling the time and manner of one’s death” and the state’s assisted suicide ban was unconstitutional.

Issue. Whether Washington’s prohibition against “causing” or “aiding” a suicide offends the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

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