Document Type


Publication Date



Until this year, no state or federal appellate court had ever held that there was a right to assisted suicide no matter how narrow the circumstances or stringent the conditions. In 1996, however, within the span of a single month, two federal courts of appeals so held; in an 8-3 majority of the Ninth Circuit (sitting en banc) in Compassion in Dying v. Washington and a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit in Quill v. Vacco. What heartened proponents of a right to physician-assisted suicide even more, and pleased those resistant to the idea even less, was that the two courts which found a constitutional right in assisted-suicide did so by invoking different provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit relied on the Due Process Clause and the Second Circuit turned to the Equal Protection Clause.