Washington v. Glucksberg

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In Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997), the U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously that the State of Washington's prohibition against "causing" or "aiding" a suicide does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1]

Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion for the Court, and the liberal wing of Justices O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens concurred in a separate opinion. The Court reversed the decision of an en banc sitting of the Ninth Circuit:

Throughout the Nation, Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide. Our holding permits this debate to continue, as it should in a democratic society. The decision of the en banc Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 735-36 (1997).

This decision also addressed the standard for facial challenges to the constitutionality of a statute:

In other cases and in other contexts, we have imposed a significantly lesser burden on the challenger. The most lenient standard that we have applied requires the challenger to establish that the invalid applications of a statute "must not only be real, but substantial as well, judged in relation to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep." Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 615 (1973). As the Court's opinion demonstrates, Washington's statute prohibiting assisted suicide has a "plainly legitimate sweep." While that demonstration provides a sufficient justification for rejecting respondents' facial challenge, it does not mean that every application of the statute should or will be upheld.

Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 740 n.7 (1997).


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