Georgia’s Supreme Court struck down a state law that restricted assisted suicide on Monday, causing criminal charges against four members of an assisted suicide network to be dismissed, CNN reported.
Siding with the suicide group, the court unanimously found the law to be "unconstitutional under the free speech provisions of the United States and Georgia constitutions," according to Justice Hugh Thompson’s court opinion, CNN reported.
The ruling will mean that four members of the Final Exit Network, who were charged in February 2009 with helping a 58-year-old man with cancer die, won’t have to stand trial, the Associated Press reported. Final Exit, which lists a New Jersey address on its website, says it is "an all-volunteer organization serving members in all 50 states who are suffering from intolerable medical circumstances and want to end their lives.”
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According to CNN, the way the law was written was unacceptable, although a ban on assisted suicide could be constitutional. This law targeted those who publicly offered to assist others' suicides. In 1994, lawmakers banned people from publicly advertising suicide, in an attempt to try to prevent assisted suicide from people like Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the late doctor who triggered the national right-to-die debate, the AP reported.
But Thompson found that lawmakers could have imposed the ban on all assisted suicides without restricting free speech.
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"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," the ruling said, the AP reported.
The Final Exit Network was thrilled with the outcome on Monday. "This was politically motivated and ideologically driven as opposed to being, in any way, motivated by sound legal practice," said Ted Goodwin, the group's former president and one of the four defendants, the AP reported. "I'm just sorry that as many people have been put through what they've been put through in what turned out to be a boondoggle."
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