Washington v. Glucksberg
521 U.S. 702 (1997)

  • Washington State had a prohibition on assisted suicide as part of their criminal code (Wash. Rev. Code §9A.36.060(1)). A ballot initiative tried to overturn the law, but it failed.
    • A similar ballot initiative in Oregon passed.
  • A number of terminally ill people in Washington, including Glucksberg, sued for a declaratory judgment against the law.
    • Glucksberg argued that the law violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Glucksberg pointed to the decision in Cruzan v. Missouri Dept. of Health (497 U.S. 261 (1989)), which said that terminally ill people had a right to refuse medical treatment.
    • Glucksberg pointed the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833 (1992)), which said that the Due Process Clause includes basic and intimate exercises of personal automony.
  • The Trial Court granted the judgment. Washington appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Washington appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Washington’s ban on assisted suicide was not a violation of the 14th Amendment, and that there is no fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.
      • The Court found that just because many of the rights and liberties protected by the Due Process Clause revolve around personal autonomy does not warrant the sweeping conclusion that any and all important, intimate, and personal decisions are so protected.
    • The Court found that in order to be constitutional, Washington’s ban had to be rationally related to legitimate government interests. In this, the Court found that it was, because Washington has an interest in:
      • The public health problem of suicide.
      • The integrity and ethics of the medical profession.
      • The protection of vulnerable groups (such as the poor and elderly) from abuse, neglect, and mistakes.
      • Preventing a ‘slippery slope’ toward legalizing euthanasia.