The Georgia Supreme Court has struck down a central provision of a state law that criminalised some assisted suicides because it breaches free speech rights.
The Georgia Supreme Court has struck down a central provision of a state law that criminalised some assisted suicides because it breaches free speech rights. The ruling means that 4 members of the advocacy group Final Exit Network will not have to stand trial on charges related to the 2008 suicide of 58-year-old John Celmer, who killed himself 2 years after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Georgia’s state legislature passed the law in 1994 to prosecute people such as the late Jack Kevorkian. But the law only criminalised some assisted suicides — those in which a person advertises or offers to assist in a suicide and moves to carry it out.
Consequently, the Court ruled that “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”. Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, noted that John Celmer was suffering from “significant depression” when he committed suicide. He wrote:
“The story of John Celmer reinforces how a person who is living with depression can be influenced by others and die by assisted suicide. He was in remission from cancer and was awaiting reconstructive surgery on his face. Celmer’s wife stated soon after the arrest of the four Final Exit Network members that: ‘His physical condition was curable. Any depression he had was treatable, and death is not.’”
Georgia Supreme Court strikes quashes assisted-suicide law
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