Golden Gate University Law Review


Cara Elkin


In Compassion In Dying v. State of Washington, three patients, five physicians, and a non-profit organization called Compassion in Dying challenged the constitutionality of a Washington State statute which bans all assisted suicide, including physician-assisted death requested by terminally ill, mentally competent adults. The district court held the statute unconstitutional for violating the patient-plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment liberty interests and equal protection rights." A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit held that no constitutional right to die exists under either the Due Process or Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Ninth Circuit granted review en banc. The en banc court issued a decision reversing the three judge panel and affirming the district court's decision. The en banc court held "a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in determining the time and manner of one's own death" exists within the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The en banc court weighed this liberty interest against Washington's legitimate and countervailing state interests, and determined that the Washington statute is unconstitutional as it prohibits physicians from prescribing life-ending medication to terminally ill, mentally competent adults who choose to hasten their deaths.