Georgia Assisted Suicide Law Overturned
Georgia's highest court has thrown out a state law that was aimed at stopping assisted suicides, ruling that the law violated the free speech rights of four members of an assisted suicide group .
The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous ruling found that the law violates the free speech clauses of the U.S. and Georgia constitutions. It means four members of the Final Exit Network who were charged with helping a 58-year-old cancer-stricken man die won't have to stand trial.
Here's where it gets tricky. Assisted suicide isn't illegal in Georgia, but - a law passed in 1994 made it illegal to "advertise" assisted suicide services. The four members of the Final Exit Network were found guilty of violating that 1994 law.
In overturning it, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers could have banned all assisted suicides without restricting free speech, or they could have outlawed offers to assist in suicides that were followed by the act, but they didn't take either approach.
"The State has failed to provide any explanation or evidence as to why a public advertisement or offer to assist in an otherwise legal activity is sufficiently problematic to justify an intrusion on protected speech rights," the ruling said.
Opponents of assisted suicide measures say the court's ruling could open Georgia to more assisted suicides.
State attorneys said they are reviewing the ruling. The network's members say they are thrilled with it.
Since the state's highest court hinted broadly that the state could have taken the direct approach, it's probable that Georgia lawmakers will make another run at assisted suicide by outlawing the act of assisting it, without putting restrictions on advertising the service.