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Right to Life statute making it a felony knowingly to cause or aid another


person to attempt suicide. The court had invalidated the statute
Compassion in Dying v State of Washington, Ninth Circuit on the basis that it violated the plaintiff’s Fourteenth
79 F 3d 790 Amendment liberty and equal protection rights. The court also
found that no constitutional distinction could be made between
the competent terminally ill who could elect to end their lives by
Facts: having life support discontinued and the terminally ill seeking
physician assistance to commit suicide.
1. The court is asked to rule as a matter of first impression on the
constitutionality of the State of Washington’s criminal The Court of Appeals held that (a) The statute did not deprive
prohibition against physician-assisted suicide. persons seeking physician-assisted suicide of constitutional
2. Plaintiffs challenge the statue only insofar as it bans physician- protected liberty interest and that facial invalidation of the
assisted suicide by mentally competent, terminally ill adults who statute was unwarranted; (b) The RCW 9A 36.060 is
knowingly and voluntarily choose to hasten their death. The unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on the
plaintiffs are a coalition of three terminally ill patients, five exercise of protected Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest by
physicians who treat terminally ill patients and Compassion in terminally ill, mentally competent adults acting knowingly and
Dying, an organization which provides support, counselling and voluntarily, without undue influence from third parties, who
assistance to mentally competent, terminally ill adults wish to commit physician-assisted suicide; and (c) The RCW 9A
considering suicide. 36.060 is unconstitutional because it violates the right to equal
3. Washington has no law prohibiting suicide or attempted suicide. protection under Fourteenth Amendment by prohibiting
However, Washington bans aiding or causing the suicide of physician-assisted suicide while permitting the refusal or
another. Whereas, a person is guilty of promoting a suicide withdrawal of life support systems for terminally ill individuals.
attempt when he knowingly causes or aids another person to
attempt suicide (1459 RCW 9 A.36.060).

Issues:

1. Whether or not individuals have a constitutionally protected


right to be free from undue governmental intrusion on their
decision to hasten death and avoid prolonged suffering.

Ruling:
1. The U.S Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit reversed a district court
decision that had declared unconstitutional a Washington state

Human Rights Law | Atty. Kim Dayag | 1st Semester A.Y. ’19 - ‘20