Court strikes down law that banned assisted suicide advertising
Posted on February 9, 2012
Take a look at this interesting ruling, released earlier this week:
Georgia’s highest court has concluded that a state law restricting assisted suicides violated free speech rights, a ruling that destroyed a long-running criminal case against members of a suicide group and could reshape the state’s end-of-life policy.
The Georgia Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling struck down the 1994 law, which bans people from publicly advertising suicide. It was adopted by lawmakers hoping to prevent right-to-die supporters from offering their services in the state.
The ruling means that four members of the Final Exit Network who were charged in February 2009 with helping a 58-year-old cancer patient die won’t have to stand trial. The group, which was once based in Georgia, was at the center of a lengthy investigation by state authorities who infiltrated its operations.
Unfortunately, however, the ruling does not prevent lawmakers in the state from acting to ban assisted suicides:
The court’s opinion found that lawmakers could have imposed a ban on all assisted suicides with no restriction of free speech, or sought to prohibit all offers to assist in suicide that were followed by the act. But lawmakers decided to do neither, said the opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson. …
The decision left open a route for state lawmakers to explicitly outlaw all assisted suicides, as long as the law doesn’t infringe on free speech rights. Legislative leaders haven’t ruled out introducing legislation that would do just that, and the Georgia Attorney General’s office said it’s ready to help lawmakers if they bring forward legislation in response to the ruling.
In other words: feel free to advertise that you will assist another person in suicide, but don’t actually go through with it!