Washington v. Glucksberg

521 U.S. 702 (1997)


D passed a law that made it a felony to promote a suicide attempt by knowingly causing or aiding another person to attempt suicide. P and other doctors opposed this law in that it prohibited them from aiding their terminally ill patients in ending their lives. P 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. The District Court agreed, and concluded that d'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. The en banc Court concluded that the Constitution encompasses a due process liberty interest in controlling the time and manner of one's death -- that there is, in short, a constitutionally recognized 'right to die.' The Supreme Court granted certiorari.