[JURIST] A Georgia law [§16-5-5 text] intended to combat assisted suicide [JURIST news archive] actually infringes on First Amendment [text] rights, defense lawyers argued to the Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] on Monday. The law makes it a felony for someone who “publicly advertises, offers or holds himself or herself 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.” Defendants Ted Goodwin, Claire Blehr, Lawrence D. Egbert Nicholas Alec Sheridan were arrested in 2009 for allegedly violating that law by running an assisted death operation. The foursome pleaded not guilty to charges that they tampered with evidence, violated anti-racketeering laws and helped a cancer-stricken man kill himself. A lower court held that the law does not violate First Amendment guarantees, and the state Supreme Court decision is expected in the next few months.
In 2009, a sharply divided Montana Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that physician assisted suicide is not banned by state law, making Montana the third state to allow the practice after Oregon and Washington. The court upheld in part and reversed in part a lower court ruling, agreeing with its finding that physician assisted suicide is not illegal under state law, but giving no opinion on the greater constitutional question addressed by the lower court. Instead, it found in a 4-3 decision that physician assisted suicide was not rendered illegal under state statute or by public policy concerns.