Washington_v_Glucksburg - Washington v. Glucksberg 521 u.s....

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Washington v. Glucksberg 521 u.s. 702 (1997) http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-110.ZS.html Vote: 9 (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy, O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, Souter, Stevens, Thomas) 0 Opinion of the Court: Rehnquist Concurring opinions: O’Connor, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer Cruzan presented the Supreme Court with its first opportunity to enter the “right-to-die” debate. The justices ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause permits a competent individual to terminate medical treatment. As for those patients unable to voice their desires, a majority of the justices suggested that states may fashion their own standards, including those that require “clear and convincing evidence” of the patient’s interests (such as a living will). In Glucksberg, the Court was called on to address yet another dimension of the right-to-die question--suicides or “assisted suicides” for the terminally ill. May a person cause or aid another person to attempt suicide? This particular dispute centered on a Washington State law: “A person is guilty of promoting a suicide attempt when he knowingly causes or aids another person to attempt suicide.” Under the law, promoting a suicide attempt was a felony, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine. Washington was not alone in its prohibition against assisted suicides: Nearly all other states condemn the practice, either by law or tradition. In 1994 Dr. Harold Glucksberg (along with several other physicians who treated terminally ill patients; three gravely ill patients; and Compassion in Dying, a nonprofit organization that counsels people considering physician- assisted suicide) asked a federal district court to declare the Washington law unconstitutional. Relying heavily on Cruzan and the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (excerpts, pages 466–476), they claimed that “the existence of a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment” extends to a personal choice by a “mentally competent, terminally ill adult to commit physician-assisted suicide.” The district court agreed, concluding that Washington’s assisted-suicide ban was unconstitutional because it “places an undue burden on the exercise of [that] constitutionally protected liberty interest.” After a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed--holding that “[i]n 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 circuit reheard the case en banc. It reversed the panel’s decision, and affirmed the district court. Once the Supreme Court, in 1996, granted certiorari to address the question of whether Washington’s
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Washington_v_Glucksburg - Washington v. Glucksberg 521 u.s....

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