What was the holding in Washington v. Gluckberg?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This case was a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1997.  The issue before the Court had to do with a law passed by the State of Washington that prohibited assisted suicide.  The holding in this case was that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment does not extend to protecting the right to have someone help you to commit suicide.

When this law was challenged in the lower federal courts, it was overturned.  The lower courts held that the right to commit suicide, and to have help in doing so, was a protected form of “liberty.”  The 14th Amendment says that no state may deprive anyone of their liberty without the due process of law.  The issue, then, is what “liberty” means.  Typically, courts have said that the word “liberty” refers to basic human rights such as the right to freedom of speech.  The lower courts said, in this case, that assisted suicide was part of the protected liberties that people have.  The Supreme Court disagreed.  It held that the right to assisted suicide is not covered by this clause of the 14th Amendment.

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