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“Substantive Due Process”

    . . . Respondents . . . are physicians who practice in Washington. These doctors occasionally treat terminally ill, suffering patients, and declare that they would assist these patients in ending their lives if not for Washington’s assisted-suicide ban. In January 1994, respondents, along with three gravely ill, pseudonymous plaintiffs who have since died and Compassion in Dying, a nonprofit organization that counsels people considering physician-assisted suicide, sued in the United States District Court, seeking a declaration that [the assisted suicide ban] is, on its face, unconstitutional.

    The plaintiffs asserted “the existence of a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment which extends to a personal choice by a mentally competent, terminally ill adult to commit physician-assisted suicide.” Relying primarily on Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health (1990), the District Court agreed, and concluded that Washington’s assisted-suicide ban is unconstitutional because it “places an undue burden on the exercise of that constitutionally protected liberty interest.”

    A panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, emphasizing that “in the two hundred and five years of our existence no constitutional right to aid in killing oneself has ever been asserted and upheld by a court of final jurisdiction.” The Ninth Circuit reheard the case en banc, reversed the panel’s decision, and affirmed the District Court. . . . We granted certiorari, and now reverse.

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