Skip to content
Won U.S. Supreme Court

Washington v. Glucksberg

California’s Physician-Assisted Suicide Law is Anything But Compassionate


The state of Washington historically prohibited the practice of “assisted suicide,” in which a doctor or other person assists in killing another person. The ban was codified in 1979 in the state’s Natural Death Act. In 1996, five physicians challenged the Act, claiming that the ban violated the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.

The district court overturned the Act, finding that there is a constitutional “right” to physician-assisted suicide. The appellate court, after initially upholding the Act, reversed its own decision later, agreeing with the district court that Washington could not ban assisted suicide. Alliance Defending Freedom provided strategic support and funding and coordinated briefs standing against assisted suicide at the Supreme Court.

In 1997, the Supreme Court decided to review this case and a similar case, Vacco v. Quill, challenging New York’s ban on assisted suicide.

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld both the Washington and New York bans, holding that there is no constitutional “right” to assisted suicide. The Court also recognized the importance of protecting the most vulnerable human lives and reinforcing state policy that the terminally ill, disabled, and elderly are “no less valued than the lives of the young and healthy.”

Case Documents