WASHINGTON – Citing a violation of First Amendment Rights, the Georgia State Supreme Court today struck the state's 1994 law which classified as a felony anyone who "publicly advertises, offers or holds himself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits any overt act to further that purpose." The decision leaves Georgia with no protections against assisting suicide.
"Today's ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court puts the lives of older people and those with disabilities in grave danger because it opens the door for the fringe advocates of doctor-prescribed death to openly advertise the practice in the state of Georgia," said Burke Balch, J.D., director of National Right to Life's Powell Center for Medical Ethics. "This ruling essentially says if you want to advertise helping people jump off a cliff, you can hang out your shingle in Georgia."
At the heart of the ruling was a case involving four members of the Final Exit Network who were charged in February 2009 with the death of a 58-year-old cancer patient. As a result of today's ruling, the four will not face a criminal trial.
At present only Oregon and Washington State have legalized doctor-prescribed death. A Montana Supreme Court ruling in 2010 left the status of assisting suicide in that state ambiguous. Other efforts to legalize the practice, which would put countless patients at risk, have been defeated in Maine, Hawaii, and Michigan among others.
"We call on the Georgia legislature to quickly remedy today's ruling by enacting into statute legal protections against doctor-prescribed death and other forms of assisting suicide," added Balch. "Failure to take swift action could result in the deaths of countless older people and those with disabilities."
This blog post originally appeared on National Right to Life's website: nrlc.org