chapter  5
44 Pages

Compassion in Dying The Assisted Suicide Test Cases

On June 26, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that there would be no Roe v. Wade (1973)–like protection for assisted suicide in the near future. In a 9-0 decision in Washington v. Glucksberg (Compassion IV 1997 ), the justices held that the respondents’ asserted “right” to assistance in committing suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the due process clause. In a second decision (Vacco v. Quill [Quill III] 1997), again 9-0, the court held that a state’s policy distinguishing between letting a patient die and making a patient die is rational and therefore a state ban against assisted suicide does not violate the equal protection clause. In so deciding, the justices

closed the door opened by the 1994 ruling in the Western District of Washington in Compassion in Dying v. Washington (Compassion I 1994), but they noted that the debate would go on and encouraged the states to be the laboratories for change.