Kevorkian v. Arnett
West's Federal Supplement 1996; 939: 725-732
Court Decision: 939 Federal Supplement, 725; 1996 Sep 11 (date of decision). The United States District Court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on a claim that California's law against assisted suicide violated his federal due process rights and dismissed the plaintiff's claims that the law violated his privacy and equal protection rights under California's constitution. Plaintiff John Doe, a terminally ill patient, wanted to end his life with the assistance of plaintiff Jack Kevorkian. The court dismissed Kevorkian from the action because he was not licensed to practice medicine in the state of California and thereby lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of California's Penal Code. The court applied the standard of "undue burden" in determining whether California's law against assisted suicide violated Doe's liberty interest under the due process clause of the Federal Constitution. Because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has acknowledged a liberty interest "in controlling the time and manner of one's death," and because the California Code categorically prohibits assisted suicide, the court found the law placed a "substantial obstacle" in a "large fraction of the cases" and therefore violated the due process clause. Relying on a California appellate court decision, the court held that the law prohibiting assisted suicide does not violate the plaintiff's right to privacy. The court also held the law prohibiting assisted suicide does not violate the plaintiff's right to equal protection under California law because the law bears "some rational relationship to a conceivable legitimate state purpose." [KIE/INW]
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